'Race shouldn't matter when picking DA leader,' says John Steenhuisen

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will this coming weekend elect an interim leader to replace Mmusi Maimane.

The race is between the party's parliamentary leader John Steenhuisen and Gauteng member of the provincial legislature Makashule Gana, after the withdrawal by Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela.

RELATED: 'I want to make sure the DA truly becomes a home for all South Africans'

Steenhuisen joins Eusebius McKaiser to discuss whether he can successfully lead the DA.

I want to lead the DA because it the DA stands at a crossroads and it has to make some hard decisions about where it is going towards the future. And it will need some decisive leadership to do so.

John Steenhuisen, Parliamentary leader - DA

Steenhuisen says in his 20 years of being a public representative, he has built up the experience and skill set to be able to lead the party and win back the support that the party might have lost.

I would like to move away from the personality politics that have dominated the DA. I think there is far too much still placed in personalities rather than policies and principles.

John Steenhuisen, Parliamentary leader - DA

I have served 10 years as a local government as a ward councillor and I understand intimately the connection between people who vote for you and the responsibility to them. I have served in the provincial legislature and I have served in the National Assembly.

John Steenhuisen, Parliamentary leader - DA

He says all of these leadership positions he was given, he focused strongly on building teams.

I believe that if you are the cleverest person in the room, you are not in the right room. You need to get clever people in the room around you. You succeed by leading teams to achieve things where the whole is greater than it is apart.

John Steenhuisen, Parliamentary leader - DA

He says the DA lost votes because it didn't have a clear message and voters didn't know what the party stood for.

Voters in the last elections chose parties on both the left and the right who were very clear and unambiguous about what it stood for. The DA wasn't able to offer a coherent answer to those questions.

John Steenhuisen, Parliamentary leader - DA

He says the review gave the DA clear purpose where things went wrong in the elections and how not to make those mistakes again.

Steenhuisen adds that he doesn't believe that the review panel overreached in its scope and recommendations when it said that former leader Mmusi Maimane should have resigned after the elections.

If you look at the scope of work and terms of reference that was written by the leader at the time, he said the review panel must clearly look at everything, including leadership. I don't think there was overreach and it covered the areas that it needed to.

John Steenhuisen, Parliamentary leader - DA

When asked if Maimane was an excellent leader, Steenhuisen had this to say:

I don't think there is ever a perfect leader and in the history of the party, there have been leaders with enormous strength and also blind spots. He was charismatic, he was telegenic and gave great speeches but there was a lack of decisiveness in Maimane and a slide away from some of the core values and principles of the party.

John Steenhuisen, Parliamentary leader - DA

He says it doesn't matter where things went wrong, the buck stops with the leader.

The race for a leader should be a race between two candidates and should not be reduced to a matter of representivity, he says.

We should be a party that upholds its values of non-racialism and rejects representivity. You don't have to be a black South African to speak for poor South Africans who are living in poverty. I don't think race should matter when you are picking between two individuals. We have become too obsessed with race in South Africa.

John Steenhuisen, Parliamentary leader - DA

Listen below to the full conversation:


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