DA leader John Steenhuisen and his backers have moved to block a proposed constitutional change for the official opposition to elect a deputy party leader, as campaigning for the leadership of the organisation intensified.
Party leader candidate and KwaZulu-Natal MPL Mbali Ntuli and her supporters face an uphill battle to convince the organisation’s delegates to endorse an amendment allowing for the election of the party’s second most powerful leader.
The embattled official opposition is holding an elective congress at the end of this month.
Steenhuisen has emerged as the favourite to replace former leader Mmusi Maimane, who
dumped the party in October last year, saying it no longer represented one South Africa.
The constitutional amendments – like the issue of race – have become a battleground between the supporters of Ntuli and Steenhuisen.
Ntuli sponsored the view that the federal congress should elect both the leader and their deputy and was seconded by the party’s eThekwini chairman, Sakhile Mngadi.
But the constitutional review panel rejected the suggestion, saying it was going to create another centre of power.
“This amendment would create a deputy federal leader and with it the not unreasonable assumption that such a person would succeed the federal leader. This stifles democracy,” a leaked document on the party’s constitutional amendments reads.
“Additionally, it can create a further ‘centre of power’, thereby promoting factionalism or creating an environment where there is a competition for prominence, at the expense of the party as a whole.”
A DA insider said it was madness that a party of its size does not have a deputy leader.
“I think it’s obvious that we need more high-profile leaders so that when one messes up we are not in a mess that we are in now,” the leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
“Also, succession planning is important in any organisation. It also spreads workload. You can’t have a party of this size and think one leader can manage it.”
Ntuli was also facing stiff resistance to her proposal that the DA drop the position of a chief whip.
The party, which has been severely hit by the resignations of senior black leaders, wants its senior office bearers to serve no more than two consecutive terms.
The proposal sought to ensure that power cliques or cabals don’t form around individuals and the development of up-and-coming leaders.