DA clamps down on leadership race between Steenhuisen and Ntuli

20 September 2020 - 00:00
The DA's Mbali Ntuli.
The DA's Mbali Ntuli.
Image: Thuli Dlamini

The DA has adopted stringent leadership campaign rules that prohibit candidates from running public campaigns in the media.

Friday's meeting of the DA's federal council also barred candidates from holding public debates in the run-up to the national conference next month, where the party will elect new leaders.

This comes as the race to lead the party heats up between incumbent John Steenhuisen and KwaZulu-Natal MPL Mbali Ntuli.

The new rules have been slammed by Ntuli's supporters, who say they perceive them as an attempt to curtail her campaign, which so far has been run very publicly and has featured media interviews, press conferences and a challenge to a public debate with Steenhuisen.

DA Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela confirmed the new rules, saying he supports them "120%".

Madikizela said the DA race is not to elect the president of SA but the leader of the DA and there is no reason for public debates. He said it is nonsense to say the rules target Ntuli.

"You can't burn the house down that you claim you want to save," said Madikizela in reference to Ntuli's campaign.

DA interim leader John Steenhuisen.
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

The adoption of the new rules comes after Ntuli and Steenhuisen wrote letters to party members this week about their campaigns.

In her letter, which was also run as an op-ed article by the Daily Maverick, Ntuli tore into the party and its use of its federal legal commission to deal with members.

She accused Madikizela of having laid a charge against her in exchange for support to reach his current position in 2017.

Madikizela rubbished the claims, saying they are nonsense. He said Ntuli is acting like someone who is preparing to leave the DA.

In his letter, Steenhuisen said he would not trash the party in public.

"That is why I have spent a lot of time engaging directly with delegates through virtual town hall meetings in every province, because they are the ones who will be voting in this congress," he said.

"While it might be popular with commentators and Twitter to attack your own party, I have chosen to rather be forthright with you in these meetings."

The Sunday Times has seen an internal draft document by the party that was sent out to members before the meeting.

In it the party prohibits public campaigns by candidates until nominations have been called. It gives delegates the power to call on the presiding officer or a person selected by party leadership for debates.

"It is accepted that the media and other third parties will take interest in internal party activities, however, candidates may not lobby or pro-actively pursue media involvement in their campaigns," reads the document.

It prohibits candidates from divulging internal party information, including about finances, meetings, polls, finances and "other activity".

Candidates may not lobby or pro-actively pursue media involvement in their campaigns

A DA leader who supports Ntuli, and was part of the meeting, said the regulations are problematic. He said the rules are effective immediately and no candidate can issue a statement about their campaigns.

"The [motivation] was to 'protect the interests of the party' but we know it's not really the case," said the DA leader.

"The debate is not something new [in the DA], Mmusi Maimane and Wilmot James debated each other. But now the same people who were pushing for that debate are the ones now who don't want the debate because it does not suit them."

The party is due to issue an internal notice on the resolution to notify candidates.

DA spokesperson Solly Malatsi said: "The rules for internal elections which were adopted by Federal Council are designed to regulate the conduct of all candidates for internal campaigning. Whenever rules are made they are meant to be applicable to all members of the organisation not select individuals.


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