The DA’s Eastern Cape branches and activists elected a new leadership at the weekend – a team they believe will take the party to the next level by winning the majority provincial vote in 2019.
It was a momentous occasion for the party as it chose its first-ever black leader in the province, Nqaba Bhanga.
But amid the celebrations of what has been hailed as a progressive step by the party, the new leadership has raised a few eyebrows and not necessarily for the right reasons.
Not only are five of the top seven provincial bosses from Nelson Mandela Bay, not a single woman was elected by delegates at the East London congress.
This has reopened critique that has been dogging the DA for years about the party being in the hands of a “boys’ club” – that there is simply no space for women in leadership positions.
Asked about the “boys’ club” at a press conference on Saturday, Bhanga took offence to being referred to as a boy, pointing out that he was, in fact, a man.
He then went on to explain that the DA does not choose leaders on the basis of race, gender or age, but rather on their capabilities.
“We want to build a South Africa where your gender does not necessarily define your ability.
“We want to build a human society.
“What attracted me to the DA is we want to build humanism. We don’t want to build a sectoral society,” Bhanga said.
He, however, acknowledged that they had to do more to build the DA Women’s Network, saying they would pump resources and manpower into strengthening their youth and women structures.
DA national spokeswoman Refiloe Ntsekhe reiterated their stance that they believe in choosing public representatives based on merit and qualifications, and not necessarily on gender.
But if the DA wants to govern the province and ultimately the country, it needs to place women representation at the top of its agenda.
More than half of the population of South Africa is female and it is perhaps time for the DA to ensure its structures are reflective of that fact.
Failing which, the already difficult task of trying to raise its provincial election showing from 19% in 2014 to 51% in 2019 will prove near impossible to do.