DA to 'tackle legacy of apartheid'

John Steenhuisen is now in seat vacated by Mmusi Maimane.
John Steenhuisen is now in seat vacated by Mmusi Maimane.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Newly elected DA interim leader John Steenhuisen wants the party to pay closer attention to black people by addressing the legacy of apartheid, which he said continues to make poor South Africans even poorer.

Steenhuisen, who was elected yesterday, promised to lead a more empathetic, compassionate party that will also focus on addressing the scourge of poverty.

"I want to be explicit and clear here that the DA believes the legacy of apartheid must be corrected through targeted redress," said Steenhuisen.

"This is imperative and this redress will form the foundational processes of the DA going forward because to simply accept that apartheid was a brutal and unjust system is to deny the fact that it continues to haunt the lives of many of the people in South Africa today."

Sandwiched between federal council chair Helen Zille, who showed little emotion, and newly appointed interim federal chairperson Ivan Meyer, Steenhuisen said under his leadership the DA will seek to lift more people out of poverty.

"Our fight is to lift more people out of poverty and lift them into opportunities and restore the dignity of millions of South Africans who are still, 25 years after the end of apartheid, waiting for their freedom," said Steenhuisen.

Fresh from being elected Mmusi Maimane's interim successor, a confident Steenhuisen said that in order to reverse the embarrassing results at the polls, the DA will go back to the roots and connect with communities.

"We will have to be a party that is built on organic authenticity, which means we have to put down genuine roots into every community in SA so that we can win the trust of them and our branches, our activists, our structures must form an umbilical cord that connects the DA with those communities," he said.

The Democratic Alliance elected John Steenhuisen as its new interim leader on November 17 2019. Steenhuisen beat Gauteng MPL Makashule Gana in the race. Here's a look at Steenhuisen's road to the top.

Steenhuisen beat Makashule Gana in the race for the DA's top position following Maimane's resignation last month. He will lead the party until next year, when it is expected to hold its elective congress where new leadership will be installed.

After his election, Steenhuisen fielded questions around the DA electing a white leader in a predominantly black country.

He said issues faced by black South Africans do not necessarily need to be addressed by a black leader.

"Yes, I happen to be a white South African but I want South Africans to judge me not on the colour of my skin but rather on the quality of contribution that I can make to improving the lives of South Africans," said Steenhuisen.

"You don't have to look a certain way to speak out against injustice... we have a proud history of people in our party who didn't look like the people they were fighting for and were out there every day in the frontlines improving their lives."

He said South Africans were now concerned about having leaders who deal with issues affecting them and not their colour. "I think SA is a patient in deep crisis and I think South Africans are becoming less concerned about the colour of the doctor who's going to perform a life-saving operation to get SA from where it is to where it needs to be," said Steenhuisen.

John Steenhuisen is the new DA parliamentary leader. We sat down with the man from Durban to find out what his plans are for the party and his thoughts on the recent shake-up in the Democratic Alliance