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DA going all out to ensure party leadership conference happens this year – Steenhuisen

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The DA’s federal executive and national management committee will be discussing ways to ensure that both its policy and elective conferences go ahead this year.

Interim party leader John Steenhuisen told News24 this week that the idea of getting 2 500 people into a venue during the deadly coronavirus outbreak was “frankly optimistic”, adding that there were different models that could be used for party members to vote for both a new leader and a policy position the DA needed to pursue.

“I think we are going to have to have leadership elections,” Steenhuisen said.

Steenhuisen, in a recording of the “One more thing with Tshidi Madia” podcast, said innovative ways to make this happen had to be considered.

The DA, like all other political parties, halted large gatherings as the Covid-19 pandemic hit South Africa’s shores last month, moving its two conferences to November.

READ MORE | DA postpones policy conference, calls special meeting of seniors

“There‚Äôs various other models that are used in other countries. Britain elect their party leaders via a postal vote. We will see how we can use technology, decentralising voting perhaps at various provincial centres, perhaps where people can come in smaller numbers with social distancing to cast a vote in front of scrutineers,” Steenhuisen suggested.

He is one of three leaders vying for the position, alongside former DA youth leader and now member of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, Mbali Ntuli, as well as Gauteng leader John Moodey.

All three suspended their campaigns in light of the crisis.

“I need to be given a mandate by the broader party to lead the party, particularly given the fact that local government elections are looming,” said Steenhuisen.

He said there were several things he wanted to do as leader in the DA, after receiving a proper mandate from the federal party.

“I certainly do not want to lead the party in the current circumstances into another year.”

Crisis mode

He said whoever was elected to the position would need to be given enough time to establish themselves and their brand of leadership ahead of the 2021 local government elections.

South Africa is in a battle against time, trying to stop the spread of the pandemic that has killed more than 100 000 people across the globe and infected more than two million.

In SA, 52 people have died so far, while 3 034 have tested positive for the virus.

“South Africa is going to fundamentally change throughout the course of this period; big public gatherings need to be limited, mask wearing needs to become a function, social distancing must remain, self-isolation of the vulnerable sections of the population have to remain, PPE is going to be absolutely required everywhere,” Steenhuisen observed.

The main opposition party in the country has spent most of the past year in crisis mode. It lost support at the 2019 general elections and was hit by the resignations of then-leader Mmusi Maimane and former federal chairperson Athol Trollip, following the return of long-time leader Helen Zille as federal council chairperson.

READ | Mmusi Maimane resigns from DA and parliament

Some in the DA had hoped the conferences, which were initially set for April and May, would be a path back to stability.

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