The election of white males to key provincial DA leadership positions is a sign that the organisation is ditching its “inclusive” policy.
This is according to KwaZulu-Natal political analyst Protas Madlala. He was commenting on the DA’s KZN provincial congress, which was held at the Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC) on Saturday.
The DA elected its provincial chief whip, Francois Rodgers, to the position of provincial leader, elevated MP Dean Macpherson to the position of provincial chairperson and brought in its Mooi River-uMngeni constituency head, Chris Pappas, as the party’s deputy provincial leader.
Madlala said the elections were proof that the DA has gone back to its “laager”.
“It all started with the departure of the DA federal leader Mmusi Maimane, who was subsequently replaced by John Steenhuisen. It shows you that the DA has resolved to focus more on its white constituency,” he said.
In 2019 Maimane left the DA after he could not agree with some key party role-players on how the organisaiton should approach the race issue in the country.
Black candidates who were defeated during Saturday’s provincial congress, include eThekwini Municipality deputy caucus leader Emmanuel Mhlongo, who was contesting against Rodgers and eThekwini Municipality caucus leader Nicole Graham for the provincial leader position.
DA uMgungundlovu District Municipality leader Bongumusa Nhlabathi, who contested for the party’s provincial chairperson position, lost to Macpherson.
The only black candidates who made it to the DA provincial top leadership structure were eThekwini Municipality councillor Sthembiso Ngema and provincial DA Women’s Network (DAWN) leader Shehana Kajee, who were elected as co-provincial deputy chairs. However, Rodgers rejected claims that the elections were proof that the DA was about to ditch its black constituency.
“I think at the end of the day we believe in fitness for purpose, and what really inspires me — what I really find encouraging from the delegates in the congress — is the fact that the deputy chairperson and the deputy leader is a young group of people from all backgrounds, from all demographics,” he said.
A former DA Kokstad Municipality councillor, Rodgers is also the party’s former provincial chairperson.
In his acceptance speech on Saturday, Rodgers, who during the build-up to the congress had the backing of the DA’s outgoing provincial leader, Zwakele Mncwango, pledged to unite the party in KZN.
“I will work towards uniting the party and I’m grateful that my predecessor, Zwakele Mncwango, has already laid a foundation that we can build on,” he said.
Mncwango warned Rodgers and the new DA provincial leadership team to stick to principles. “Always do the right thing and more importantly, protect professional staff members against any bullies. Our country needs ethical leadership and it all starts here.
“To those elected today, please remember that situations change but principles don’t change,” he said.