Steenhuisen has a plan as he guns for DA's top spot

AIMING HIGH: John Steenhuisen is one of the candidates for the DA's interim leader position to be decided on Sunday
AIMING HIGH: John Steenhuisen is one of the candidates for the DA's interim leader position to be decided on Sunday
Image: AFP PHOTO / GULSHAN KHAN

Name: John Steenhuisen

Age: 43

Current position: DA parliamentary leader

With 20 years of being a public representative under his belt, John Steenhuisen says he has built up the experience and skill set to be able to lead the DA and he has vowed to regain the support the party lost at the May 2019 polls.

Steenhuisen took over as DA parliamentary leader after Mmusi Maimane quit the party in October.

He has since thrown his hat into the ring for the party’s interim leader position — a decision that delegates will make on Sunday at a special federal council meeting.

A new interim federal chair will also be elected on Sunday after the position was left vacant when Athol Trollip stepped down, also in October.

The terms of those elected on Sunday will run until the federal congress, which is expected to take place in April 2020.

Steenhuisen grew within the party ranks from the very bottom, starting off as an activist to a branch member.

He then became regional chair, a councillor, caucus leader, an MPL, a provincial leader, an MP, a whip, a chief whip and eventually parliamentary leader.

Steenhuisen says he comes with experience in leadership in all three spheres of government, and he has a national profile and 100% commitment to the foundational values and cause of building one prosperous SA for all.

“I think that my chances are good, but I never take anything for granted, so I will be campaigning up until the last moment to set out my offer,” he said.

He will be up against Gauteng MPL Makashule Gana.

The two were left in a two-horse race after Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela withdrew his name from the contest earlier this week, citing his commitment to the Western Cape.

“I have had an extremely positive reception and expression of support from a wide cross-section of activists, leaders and public reps,” Steenhuisen said.

Political analyst Ongama Mtimka says Steenhuisen is likely to win on Sunday.

” Steenhuisen is most likely going to succeed because the balance of power is tilted more towards the camp that supports the reclaiming of the DA. Also, he is already the parliamentary leader of the party.”

Mtimka says Steenhuisen was groomed by the old guard of the DA.

“He grew up within the ranks of the party for a long time, so while he could be trusted by the old guard, he is also seemingly open to persuasion and embracing inclusive politics if his rhetoric is anything to go by.” 

Steenhuisen said the party needed to refocus its message and move away from merely reacting to the ANC.

“We need to become a party of our own ideas, big ideas, and a party that is future-focused. That should be the offer we put forward to the electorate.

“We need to send out a clear and compelling message for the future of SA and not just bash the ANC constantly, as people are tired of that.”

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