DA leadership hopeful Mbali Ntuli has described behaviour in the party as “cult-like” and has spoken of fear and the politicising of disciplinary processes.
In a letter to party delegates on Tuesday, Ntuli bemoaned the party’s leaders and said that since 2014, she observed an existing “insider and outsider clique” in the DA which was destroying the party.
“What we have seen is cult-like behaviour associated with big personalities. Past leaders have been known to surround themselves with a small grouping of advisors, some with no on-the-ground community building experience. Some being ideologues, while others being only too happy to leverage their proximity to power to further their own ambitions. When there is a situation like that in a political party, a culture of top-down management becomes dominant, compelling many to either fall in line or risk being either isolated, purged or frustrated into resigning,” she wrote.
Ntuli is known for being outspoken and was at odds with federal council chairperson Helen Zille on several occasions on Twitter over the latter’s comments on race.
She said the party was not being destroyed by race, ideology, or the young versus the old, “but plain old-fashioned power grabs led often by individuals who seem to believe ruling by fear is the only way to instil discipline and be unchallenged”.
Ntuli added that she observed that leaders were not always open to opposing views and didn’t take responsibility by fixing what might be broken.
She added that if she was elected as the party’s leader, she would immediately embark on critical reforms that would allow healing to begin.
Chief among these reforms was bringing an end to the politicisation of the DA’s Federal Legal Commission (FLC), she said.
Speaking of a firewall in the FLC, she said the problem was that investigations, when concluded, were tabled before provincial executive committees and the federal executive and often the FLC found no further need to continue with an investigation, only to be circumvented by politicians with vested interests in the bodies.
“These politicians will then weaponise the process in order to make sure that their political opponents under investigation are pursued, convicted, punished, excommunicated or have their name dragged through the mud in order to diminish their political capital. This is abhorrent behaviour. There is no consistency to how matters of discipline are handled because of this politicisation.
“For example, I’ve sat on FedEx (the federal executive), where many members have had their memberships terminated for something like failing to pay their tithes after three months as per our party constitution. This used to concern me and as a result, I would council young new public representatives on these rules so they could avoid suffering this fate. However, over the years, I have seen chief whips, Members of Parliament and other senior leaders avoid such sanction for the very same infractions. This is grossly unfair.”
Ntuli’s letter comes after former federal chairperson Athol Trollip spoke openly about the challenges facing the party. Trollip said while he still believed the DA was the only party that had an offering for voters of different races, he believed that if the DA wanted to govern, they would have to overcome a racial trust deficit.
“Because there is a racial trust deficit in the DA now because of commentary and statements made by Zille, among others. If you can overcome that trust and become a political destination for people across all racial description, yes, then they can govern those cities, but you are going to have to overcome it and they are going to overcome that through word and deed,” he said.
The DA recently held its policy conference where it adopted a policy position which removed race as a criterion for redress.
In a letter to Zille last week, Ntuli suggested that policy resolutions must be reviewed at the party’s elective congress.
The DA has been on a downward spiral since it lost some of its traditional voters to the FF Plus in the 2019 elections.
The resignation of Mmusi Maimane, Herman Mashaba and recently, DA Gauteng leader John Moodey, who was also in the running for party leader, has further fuelled suggestions that the party was ridding itself of black leaders.