Ructions in DA over virtual congress

Black members oppose decision

The DA is divided over the decision by the organisation’s top brass to hold a virtual elective conference on October 31.

The party’s federal council’s meeting is due to end today and on the agenda is a submission from the Durban constituency in KwaZulu-Natal, which wants the decision rescinded. Many black leaders were concerned that a virtual conference, which needs internet connection and data, would disadvantage their candidates.

They include Gauteng DA leader John Moodey and member of the provincial legislature in KwaZulu-Natal Mbali Ntuli. Both are contesting interim leader John Steenhuisen – who enjoys support from the dominant white bloc of the DA – for the leadership position of the official opposition.

In a letter to Helen Zille, the DA federal council chairperson, acting chairperson of the west Durban constituency Marlaine Nair said they were opposed to electronic voting because there was lack of stable internet connection in both urban and rural areas, power outages and apprehension around the confidentiality of the vote.

Nair said constituency members did not have smart devices and that the reliability of online voting was yet to be proven. “Holding online voting would exclude far too many members from participation and that would be unfair. The executive felt that online voting was suited to our more affluent delegates,” she said.

“The constituency felt that the negatives far outweighed the positives of holding annual general meetings or federal congress on a virtual platform and that the need to do so in order to elect a federal leader speedily was unnecessary.”

The mooted virtual conference has become a proxy in a battle between the so-called black caucus and the white leaders of the DA. Jarred Nair, also from west Durban, warned in a letter to Zille that the constitution of the DA doesn’t provide for an online federal congress.

“Our courts have always held that a political party, its office bearers or structures may only exercise powers conferred to them by their constitutions, any departure would render such action invalid,” he said.

This week, Ntuli also wrote to the party public representatives urging them to reject the online congress as processes leading up to it would put members at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Ntuli added that holding annual general meetings next month, at the peak of the virus, was irresponsible.

“As a candidate in the leadership race, I would like nothing more than to have a conclusion to what has been the DA’s most protracted leadership race, but it would be unconscionable of me to support something that has the potential of making our members sick,” said Ntuli.


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