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Phalatse puts race back on the table in DA leadership contest 

Phalatse puts race back on the table in DA leadership contest 

Democratic Alliance leadership contender Mpho Phalatse has thrust the subject of race back into the spotlight as the party gears up for its congress. Photo: Getty Images

Democratic Alliance leadership contender Mpho Phalatse has thrust the subject of race back into the spotlight as the party gears up for its congress. 

In her manifesto document, Phalatse said the DA had a chance to bring the ANC share of the vote way below 50% in next year’s general election and that the possibility of a new government led by the DA — either on its own or in a coalition — was not far-fetched. 

“The DA cannot squander this opportunity by fixating on being inward-looking and through abdicating its responsibility towards the people of South Africa as a whole. We cannot build islands of opulence, excellence and good governance in a sea of poverty, mediocrity and decay,” she said. 

Phalatse said the DA had no choice but to find ways to ameliorate a trust deficit with the country and that the beginning of that process was to ensure that its leadership resembled  the diversity of the nation.

“Ordinary South Africans must find the DA relatable. We must build a DA that is truly

a home for all. Our messaging must resonate with the plight of the ordinary people, yet it must be devoid of reckless and patronising rhetoric. There must be no dissonance between our message and our actions,” she said.

“Neither should we be ambivalent on such issues as racism. We must denounce it wherever it rears its ugly head. Our policies and our actions in government must show unflinching commitment towards redress.”

Phalatse said the party must do everything possible to prepare itself for governance in 2024 and would need to demonstrate in both word and deed that the “DA activist is the central pillar of our strength as a party”.

“We must build our structures, provide sustained support to our branches and our public representatives, while reforming our internal systems, including our performance management, recruitment and selection processes, to build a strong DA that can save South Africa,” she said.

The DA has been heavily criticised in the past for allegedly muzzling some of its black leaders. 

In a previous M&G report, John Moodey, the party’s former Gauteng leader who defected to Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA, said a younger black guard had found their ideas suppressed and felt that their positions were favours they owed in return for sticking to a tired script.

“It was almost that feeling of ‘you must be grateful for the opportunity that you have, to serve in the position you are serving in’. That is fairly prevalent in the DA,” he said.

Phalatse previously told M&G that she was aware of a “culture of fear” that existed in the party. In her manifesto document, she said as a liberal party the DA needed to support and encourage free speech and the right of others to freedom of choice “even within our own party”.

 “We must support a culture of robust debates,” she said, adding that members of the party, who may hold different views from the dominant one, should feel free to express themselves without fear of retribution. 

“It is through a culture of robust engagement that we can build a critical mass of independent thinkers within the DA and not parrots who echo the voices of their masters. Any culture of stifling debate within the party and in institutions of state where we govern goes against our own founding principles as a liberal party. Such a culture must never be encouraged in the DA. We must also refrain from immersing a top down approach to decision making,” she said. 

Meanwhile, the DA’s federal council chair and party matriarch, Helen Zille, seems set for re-election following the announcement on Wednesday of candidates vying for leadership positions at its conference in April. 

It was widely expected that party leader John Steenhuisen would be challenged by  Phalatse, but a party member from Pretoria has thrown a spanner in the works by contesting all six positions. 

DA women’s network member Lungile Phenyane being nominated for all six positions means that Zille also faces a challenge for her position. 

Dion George, who is vying for the position of federal finance chairperson, would also have run uncontested for his position had Phenyane not raised her hand. 

Outgoing federal chairperson Ivan Meyer will be contesting against KwaZulu-Natal member Qhawekazi Mbatha as well as Phenyane. The two other positions which are heavily contested are that of the deputy chairperson of the federal council as well as the deputy federal chairperson. 

Those contesting the deputy federal council position include Annelie Lotriet, Ashor Sarupen, James Masango, Phenyane, Segope Sathekge, Thomas Walters and Tyrone Gray. 

High-profile leaders who have raised their hands for the position of deputy federal chairperson include the incumbent Refiloe Nt’sekhe, MP Natasha Mazzone, former Eastern Cape leader Nqaba Bhanga, national spokesperson Solly Malatsi, Western Cape member of the executive council Anton Bredell, Cape Town councillor JP Smith, Shehana Kajee and Phenyane. 

The party released its rules of engagement for its congress in February, which stipulate  that candidates and their supporters may contribute and raise funds for the campaigns, but no donor may be approached unless the fundraising department certifies they are not on the national database of donors. 

Existing donors to the party may not be approached by any person or entity to solicit a donation in cash or in kind, to any internal party election. All donations received must be declared within 72 hours to the chief executive for federal elections, the provincial directors and the relevant legislature. 

“It is the responsibility of each candidate to ensure that all donations received for internal elections are deposited into the main fundraising bank account and are referenced appropriately,” the rules say.

Candidates must designate a person who will be responsible for the disbursement of funds and keeping a register of donations. Funds raised by donations that are unexpended after the election has been concluded must be paid over to the party.

The candidates may be called to account for funds raised if there are reasonable grounds to believe that one or more aspects of these standards are not being adhered to.

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