The decision by the DA’s Federal Council to hold its national elective congress virtually in October is likely to be opposed by the majority of its black members, who have indicated that they lack internet connectivity.
Party leaders and members yesterday expressed mixed reactions after the decision was communicated to provincial and local leaders to allow them to prepare for the virtual national congress.
Detailing their decision, DA Federal Council chairperson Helen Zille said the federal executive had resolved that the chair of the Federal Council, as well as the chief operations officer Liana van Wyk, prepare a detailed proposal on plans for holding an elective congress via an accessible, secure, digital platform with systems in place to ensure that every delegate participates fully and fairly.
She added that they would submit a proposal for scrutiny and ratification at the party’s online Federal Council meeting in July.
“Since the start of the lockdown, the DA has been busy transferring its systems to digital platforms. By the time we hold the elective congress, almost every major party function will be operating online, and the process of adaptation continues,” Zille said.
While a final decision is yet to be made, some of the senior party insiders said the incumbent DA interim leader John Steenhuisen would have an upper-hand against two other contenders for the post, Gauteng’s John Moodey and Mbali Ntuli in KwaZulu- Natal.
“It will favour John Steenhuisen. He is already the face of the party during the lockdown and in other public platforms. He has captured the party’s communication machinery,” one of the insiders said.
Adding to their frustration, it was believed that the Federal Council rejected a proposal to withhold the elective congress until after the national local government elections next year.
According to insiders, some of the council members warned against rushing for elections while a number of its members, especially those in disadvantaged areas and rural villages, were still struggling with internet connectivity.
Disgruntled parties want to lobby their provincial leaders to raise objections to the proposed elective congress date. They are complaining that the lockdown is hampering processes to hold regional and branch meetings, which are meant to elect delegates for the congress.
All provincial leaders are expected to consult their members about the decision and make preparations for the congress.
Gauteng DA leader Moodey confirmed the Federal Council’s decision, saying it was made in good faith. Similar sentiments were expressed by other leaders, including in Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
Limpopo leader Jacques Smalle said: “I support the proposal and during the next month, the technology will be tested while we test some of our concerns around the fairness and transparency of the process.”
The DA’s Mpumalanga leader Jane Sithole said the province was ready to hold a virtual conference.
“We have already held our electoral college to elect a councillor, following the passing of one of the councillors. We will be ready,” Sithole said.