In an internal letter from DA MPL Mbali Ntuli, the 31-year-old appeals to her party colleagues to “save the DA” since it is in “deep crisis”.
The letter was intended for internal distribution only, but was leaked to The Citizen on Tuesday.
In the letter, Ntuli makes her case to become the next DA leader when the party goes to its elective conference following uproar around former leader Mmusi Maimane resigning.
MP John Steenhuisen was chosen as interim leader last year ahead of an elective congress presumed to be taking place later this year in May.
Other high-profile resignations included federal chairperson Athol Trollip and Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba. All three departures came in the wake of the triumphant, controversial return of Helen Zille to the top of the party as the federal executive chairperson.
Ntuli is the former provincial campaigns director for the DA in KwaZulu-Natal. She currently serves as a member of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature and as the DA KZN spokesperson on cooperative governance and traditional affairs. She first rose to prominence when she was elected leader of the DA Youth in 2013.
In her letter, which is in effect her first salvo in campaigning for election, she writes that “if we are honest with ourselves, our party is in a deep crisis”.
“We have suffered a series of losses, and there doesn’t appear to be any hope in sight that things will get any better soon.
“We have lost half a million votes in the last election. We are bleeding activists and members after losing a party leader, chairperson and mayor. We have lost votes in almost every by-election we recently fought, including those that are usually a ‘walk in the park’.”
Ntuli was referencing the fact that the DA has haemorrhaged some support to particularly the Freedom Front Plus.
“We have lost the confidence of other opposition parties and as a result, lost entire municipalities and no longer control these governments.”
The DA lost control of Nelson Mandela Bay and, more recently, Johannesburg, and the loss of Tshwane also seems inevitable ahead of next year’s local government elections.
“We have lost donors who no longer believe in us, throwing us into a financial crisis. As a result, there hasn’t even been enough funding for constituencies to do political activities. This is our core business as a party.
“Through retrenchments and resignations, we have lost valuable staff.
“Our activists and members have lost the pride and enthusiasm to be associated with us like they used to. They too, can see how we are destroying ourselves from within.
“Not a single commentator in the country has anything positive to say about our party any longer.
“Even our own members are only focused on everything negative that goes on in our party.”
Ntuli said that in any other organisation in the world, the broader membership would have risen up in anger against their leadership “for such failures”.
“Yet in our party, many of us are too afraid to openly criticise our leadership out of fear of reprisals. Yet we claim to be a party of accountability, but this is the case only when it suits the agendas of some amongst us.”
She said her greatest fear was that the DA would fare so poorly in next year’s election that many councillors would lose their jobs.
“I know that the majority of them are looking for other jobs to provide for their family. Every day I hear from our councillors about their fears of not getting reelected. This is not because they did not perform, but because our party will not perform. I know that many MPs too, are concerned about their futures.
“Just a few months ago we were focusing on winning government. Today, we are in a permanent state of damage control. We no longer plan to take over governments; we are planning to just hold on to our existing support base. And even that seems impossible.”
She asked how the party had reached this state and concluded that people no longer had faith in the DA because they hd been watching the party being destroyed from within, “while some amongst us have designed plans to take control of our party , driven solely by self-interest, and not the common good”.
“Our country is at its worst state in decades.
“Eskom has plundered the country into darkness, SAA and other state-owned companies continue to be an embarrassment and people have lost hope that we can do anything about it.
“Millions of South Africans are losing their jobs, and have no hope for a better future.
“The governing party is destroying itself from within and they are at their weakest ever, but so too are we. This is why South Africans are not looking to us an alternative. This was the opportunity we had been waiting years for, and we have thrown it away.
“Millions of people are looking at international opportunities whilst many have already left our shores – at least those who can afford to. They did so because they lost faith in our government, and have lost hope in the DA.
“I know that everything I have mentioned in this letter has also been on your mind over the last few months. It is not common in our party to criticise our own weaknesses. We have developed a culture of self-praise to please our leadership and to increase our own chances of re-election. But look where this has brought us.”
She said she would not watch the organisation disappear into oblivion.
She expressed doubts on whether DA members and the public had faith “that we will be able to pull ourselves out of the current situation” and build a new majority.
She was sure the answer would be a “resounding no” when looking at the DA’s current trajectory. As a result, she declared she had decided to stand for election as DA federal leader, and would make a formal announcement about it on Friday, 7 February, calling for the support of her DA colleagues.
(Edited by Charles Cilliers)