Will the DA public debate signal the return of public debating?

Ahead of the Democratic Alliance (DA) National Congress, due to take place this weekend (9 - 10 May) in Port Elizabeth, party parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane and DA Chairperson Wilmot James are due to face off tonight on live television on pay channel kykNET.

The tweet that started it all

702’s Xolani Gwala asked Steven Friedman, a political analyst, whether the debate between the DA leaders will signal the return of public debating.

It is significant in the sense that our political parties previously have tended to behave as though a contest for leadership in none of anybody’s business. There is a similar situation in the ANC where every time there is a succession battle delegates pretend that it isn’t happening even though everyone knows it is. The other parties like the DA have been infected by this to some extent so it is very refreshing for two candidates actually going head to head like this because this does affect the public. Whoever wins would be the leader of the opposition party … and the public has the right to know.

Yesterday, an anonymous email emerged on social media alleging that senior male party leaders were involved in sexual affairs with junior female employees. The email was sent from an untraceable email address authored under the name "Tom Jeffries", and claims to be from one of the women in the DA who suffered because “there are men in the DA who have made it a special pastime to choose women in the party to be their playthings”.

The email was aimed at the delegates set to attend the party’s congress in Port Elizabeth on Saturday and Sunday, but mostly Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal delegates.

Friedman says the pattern that used to be seen in the ANC politics is now happening in the DA where people use smear campaigns to get a political opponent. He further said the problem in this country is that people use a smear campaigns without evidence to back it up to fight political battles. He made reference to Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s allegations of having an affair with a teenager, that it had no basis.

People need to refuse allegations without evidence to be made public.

The debate between Maimane and James was on the programme ‘Insig’, anchored by Rapport editor Waldimar Pelser.

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