- DA set to decide on whether or not it will hold a virtual conference in October.
- The party is set to have its showdown during its federal council meeting this weekend.
- Some provincial leaders have given the virtual conference the go-ahead.
The DA will decide on Friday whether it will go into a virtual congress at its federal council meeting.
This as the party is rebuilding its brand following months of bruising internal battles which culminated in the resignation of DA leader Mmusi Maimane last year.
Maimane’s resignation came after he was flagged for being indecisive by an independent review panel.
It was established by Maimane after the party failed to grow its share of the national vote during last year’s general elections, losing some of its traditional voters to the FF Plus.
READ | A court must first rule on whether DA virtual congress is lawful John Moodey
The election loss led to what was a dubbed as the battle of the soul of the party when former leader Helen Zille went up against Athol Trollip for the position of federal council chairperson.
In an attempt to quell internal fires, the party opted for a policy and elective conference to be held this year. The Covid-19 pandemic delayed it.
However, interim leader John Steenhuisen faced challenges to his authority, which led to the proposal of a virtual congress.
The Eastern Cape was the first to indicate it would support the virtual conference, with provincial leader Nqaba Bhanga saying the province would hold its own congress virtually.
The move was followed by the Western Cape.
News24 spoke to several provincial leaders in the past week who endorsed the idea.
ALSO READ | DA provincial leaders give thumbs up to virtual conference before big weekend meeting
Speaking to News24 in May, Zille said they were considering having decentralised venues, where 50 people could gather and participate in smaller groups while adhering to Covid-19 regulations governing large gatherings.
“Technology offers so many options. There are also processes that allow a queuing system to speak, that can be updated once a person has spoken. We are slowly working towards it. We have our first online meeting of 300-plus delegates on 29 May, so that will be crucial to see what teething problems arise,” she added.
In a party document compiled by interim federal executive chairperson Ivan Meyer, the DA said there would be no need for party agents at its 31 October elective conference.
The document also states the party will ensure there is a presiding officer, deputy and an assistant deputy presiding officer. They will fully understand how the system works and be able to assist delegates going to different venues to participate in the conference.
The three, in this instance, will also mean the role of party agents, who usually check and verify ballots, will not be necessary.
In pre-empting problems the DA could face if it goes ahead with the elective conference on digital platforms, Meyer listed a set of risks, along with steps taken to mitigate it.
Some of the issues raised include loadshedding, the lack of information communication technology equipment, poor or no connectivity, data, lack of email addresses, delegates not familiar with Zoom and whether venues will comply with Covid-19 regulations.
Meyer said in the document a list of branches, which were valid and eligible to hold annual general meetings in preparation for the conference, would be finalised in the coming days.
There has been fierce debate for and against the conference going ahead.
Some, including leadership hopefuls Mbali Ntuli and John Moodey – shared their concerns with party representatives over the move possibly leaving behind those without access or funds to participate in a protracted conference.
In a letter to party structures in May, Ntuli said it was her considered opinion the elections would lack credibility and fairness.
“This will ultimately bring into question the integrity of the federal congress itself,” she added.
Moodey went a step further, saying any virtual conference should be subjected to a declaratory order from the High Court as to its legality. He would also be requesting direction, clarity and certainty on the conference, he said.
“This process will be subject to any member within a determined timeline providing input and proposals as to their ideas and concerns to a committee appointed for such purpose, which will ensure all proposals will be incorporated in the application submitted to the High Court.
“The DA is the party for the rule of law, a principle which I strongly abide by and believe in. Let us act responsibly and ensure that the rule of law is being applied,” he said.