Black leaders in the party feel sidelined
The DA’s Coronavirus channel has become a proxy in the battle for the soul of the party in the run-up to its conference in October.
Detractors of DA leader John Steenhuisen have expressed misgivings regarding how he deploys the organisations shadow ministers to the online TV channel to speak on matters related to the global pandemic.
Leaders in the so-called “black caucus” of the party say Steenhuisen is using the platform to consolidate support in the run-up to the virtual conference.
This is after the DA leader on Friday invited Belinda Bazzoli, DA shadow minister on higher education and training, to speak on reopening of schools instead of Nomsa Marchesi, the party’s shadow minister on basic education.
Last week, Steenhuisen also hosted James Lorimer, the party’s shadow minister on environment, forestry and fisheries, instead of, according to insiders, Bridget Masango, to speak on matters related to social development.
“Our shadow minister is Nomsa Marchesi but she isn’t part of this conversation [on the opening of schools]. Last week, James Lorimer was
doing social development but the person in charge is Bridget Masango,” a DA leader said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“It looks like a way of consolidating power,” he added.
Lorimer on Friday issued a statement on the party’s challenge against Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu’s regulations on rights to distribute and receive food.
The official opposition recently announced that it would convene it’s virtual elective conference on July 31, a decision that is being opposed by the black caucus, which enjoys most support from areas of black people who might struggle to get access to online technology should the regulations on gatherings continue.
DA Gauteng leader John Moodey and the party’s former youth leader Mbali Ntuli have been punted to contest Steenhuisen for the party’s top job.
A DA MP aligned to Steenhuisen said his opponents were jealous that he was ahead of Moodey. “The main issue is that they are complaining is because John has a lot of airtime. Whether virtual or normal, John is going to win,” he said.
Steenhuisen took over the reins of the party on an interim bases after the organisation was rocked by resignations of former leader Mmusi Maimane and Herman Mashaba.
The former mayor of Johannesburg said he could no longer reconcile himself with people who believed that race is irrelevant in policy formulation. Steenhuisen dismissed the criticism as a “pathetic attempt at trying to manufacture an issue where there is none”.
“We have work streams of the shadow cabinet that are tasked with convening and compiling and reporting on various aspects of the Coronavirus that transversely cut across a variety of portfolios. Food and security [Sassa, agriculture and Cogta] and education [early childhood development, basic and higher and science and technology] are examples,” he said.