DA elects John Steenhuisen as new Parliamentary Leader

The Democratic Alliance (DA) announced on Sunday (27 October) that former chief whip John Steenhuisen has been elected as the new Parliamentary Leader for the party.

It said that nominations officially closed Friday night at 20:00, adding that the position was uncontested with only one nomination.

It comes after the departure this week of party leader, Mmusi Maimane.

The resignation of the leader of South Africa’s official opposition and another top official marked a deepening crisis in a party that’s been dogged by a loss in electoral support and infighting over appointments and policies, Bloomberg reported.

Maimane, who announced Thursday he’d resigned from the DA and as a member of parliament, is a blow to the party’s efforts to bolster its share of the vote among the black majority and challenge the electoral dominance of the ruling African National Congress.

He succeeded Helen Zille as party leader in May 2015. It gives the ANC some breathing room as it tries to recover its popularity following the scandal-ridden nine-year rule of Jacob Zuma, Bloomberg said.

“The entire episode has been a disaster for the DA,” said Daniel Silke, the director of Political Futures Consultancy in Cape Town. “The DA may take years, not months to regain the trust of voters.”

Maimane was under pressure to resign after the DA’s share of the vote slipped to 20.8% in May elections, from 22.2% five years earlier.

The party failed to articulate policies that differentiated it from the ANC and didn’t make clear its strategy on affirmative action in a country that suffered racial oppression during apartheid rule.

Maimane had a further setback earlier this month (20 October) when Zille beat his ally, Athol Trollip, to win election as head of the party’s Federal Council, one of the most powerful posts.

The next day, the DA’s Herman Mashaba said he will step down as Johannesburg’s mayor in November because he believes Zille’s appointment constituted a victory for a DA faction that opposed race-based redress and clashed with most South Africans’ values.

Mashaba’s resignation may put at risk the DA’s working relationship with the populist Economic Freedom Fighters that helped it keep control of the nation’s biggest city. South Africa is due to hold its next municipal election in 2021 and national elections in 2024.

Trollip also announced his resignation as the DA’s federal chairman, saying he shared responsibility for the party’s failings.

Under the party’s constitution, Trollip should have taken over as head from Maimane until he was replaced, but it’s silent on what should happen if they should both resign. The party’s federal council will meet as soon as possible to make interim appointments until an elective conference – provisionally scheduled for April next year – is held, Zille said in a statement.


Read: Maimane quits the DA

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DA elects John Steenhuisen as new Parliamentary Leader