Newly elected DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said on Sunday that he did not “backstab” Mmusi Maimane by going after his job.
Steenhuisen was appointed twice by Maimane as his chief whip in parliament, first in 2014 and again in May.
Speaking after his emphatic win against Gauteng MPL Makashule Gana, Steenhuisen said he had served Maimane loyally.
“I have never backstabbed Mr Maimane. I served as his chief whip, I served him loyally and I served him well right up until the end. It was not possible for me to tell him that I was standing for the interim leader because he had resigned as the leader and a member of the party,” he said.
Steenhuisen was speaking just a few minutes after being elected by 75% of the delegates of the party’s federal council.
Speaking about his election, Steenhuisen said he was humbled by the support shown by his colleagues.
“I will dedicate every ounce of my fibre and my being and my energy to restoring our party to glory and taking us back on to the path to victory,” said Steenhuisen.
He said the fight for the DA was to lift more people out of poverty and lift them to opportunity and dignity.
“We have got to turn the setback of the last election into the biggest comeback in SA politics. That means we have to be a party built on organic authenticity, it means we have to put down genuine roots into every community in SA,” he said.
Steenhuisen said the DA believed that the legacy of apartheid must be corrected through targeted redress.
“You don’t need to resort to crude racial classification to do so. We can target redress policies directly where they need to be, at the poorest in our society, almost all of whom happen to be black South Africans.
“Truth of the matter is simply this: 25 years of race-based policies have made poor South Africans poorer, have ended up locking more South Africans out of opportunity and have made a very, very small group of people in SA exceptionally wealthy,” he said.
Ivan Meyer, who was elected as the party’s interim federal chairperson, quashed suggestions that the DA had “gone back”.
“People are asking ‘where are we going as a party?’, we are certainly not going back, we are going forward but with clear solid principles,” said Meyer.
He beat Gauteng MPL Khume Ramulefho and Western Cape health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo for the position.
“I want to make absolutely categorically clear that there is no going back. This is back to the future and that is the trajectory and that’s the leadership of John Steenhuisen,” said Meyer.