DA's 'degree' proposal could be bad news for chief whip John Steenhuisen
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen may be demoted to a backbencher after next year's elections if a proposal by his party in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal to the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers is considered.
The DA caucus in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature has recommended that only an MP with a university degree be considered as a chief whip.
Steenhuisen's highest qualification is a matric certificate, although he is considered one of the DA's most effective MPs.
Despite the degree requirement not being party policy, the DA leader in KwaZulu-Natal, Zwakele Mncwango, said the party "will have to discuss the issue of qualifications".
"We [the DA caucus] discussed it and agreed on the ... importance of qualifications as a matter of principle. ... We want representatives that have a certain level of education.
"Government institutions are collapsing because office-bearers have no capacity to even read or interpret some of the documents. Our submission is based on principle, that a leader of the opposition must have a degree," he said.
The proposal, which forms part of submissions to the remuneration commission, makes recommendations for skills and qualifications and gives detailed expectations of key performance areas for all positions in the national executive, parliament and provincial legislatures.
DA spokesperson Solly Malatsi said the party believed the selection process would deliver a diverse and skilled group.
"The purpose is to ensure that all our caucuses consist of diverse, competent, and skilled South Africans who are fit for purpose to realise our mission of building One South Africa for all," said Malatsi.
The proposal would be a new hurdle for Steenhuisen to clear if he is to stay on as chief whip after next year's elections.
The DA's diversity clause, backed by leader Mmusi Maimane, is also expected to lead to several white men being axed from the party's national and provincial caucuses.
Maimane, who took over the party leadership in May 2015, wants to assert his authority by installing his own people in parliament and changing the face of the party benches to reflect SA's demographics.
Steenhuisen has a frosty relationship with Mncwango and insiders believe that this may lead to him losing his parliamentary post.
The Sunday Times previously reported claims that he failed to keep up with the DA's monthly R2,000 tithe payments.
Steenhuisen has denied this, but a DA insider said Mncwango had succeeded in having the party look at the tithe issue again.
The DA is in the final stages of compiling its candidate lists for parliament. Insiders, speaking on condition of anonymity, say Maimane will face a big test as the party seeks to enforce its diversity clause.
One source noted Maimane has said the party needs to have a more diverse caucus, especially at the national level.
"If you look at our at our local government caucuses, they have transformed significantly," the source said.
"He has been very deliberate about ensuring that provinces are recruiting as many black potential candidates as possible.
"It will be a test of Mmusi's leadership because this will be his first national caucus and his caucus should be representative of the diversity of the party."
Contacted for comment, Steenhuisen said a similar proposal presented to parliament as part to the review of its structure had previously been rejected.
"You can have somebody who doesn't necessarily have a qualification but who is an excellent legislator or politician, and bear in mind this is a political environment … if you made a degree a requirement, you could end up excluding people who have years of experience in managing institutions in the legislative process," said Steenhuisen.