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Durban – Former DA Youth leader Mbali Ntuli says she decided to enter the race to lead the country’s official opposition because she did not think the current leadership was able to deal with challenges facing the party.

Ntuli this week wrote a letter to officially inform the DA of her intention to contest for the position of leader at the party’s elective conference in May.

At 31 years old, Ntuli is the youngest candidate. She will be contesting against John Steenhuisen, who as the party’s interim federal leader is seen as the frontrunner, and two provincial leaders, Gauteng’s John Moodey and Western Cape’s Bonginkosi Madikizela.

“In this letter, I stated what I believed to be the major issues confronting the party and its leadership.

“I also indicated I did not think the trajectory of the current leadership has the ability to arrest the situation,” she said.

Ntuli told Independent Media that she had assembled a strong campaign team with 10 members in each province and another 10 nationally.

“The response has been incredibly positive. A lot of people have said they are going to support me.

Ntuli also told her comrades that “our party is in a deep crisis”.

She said it had lost votes in almost every recent by-election, “including those that are usually a walk in the park”.

The youth leader said the DA had lost the confidence of other opposition parties, which had resulted in the party losing control of Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela metros.

“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,” she said.

Instead of responding to Ntuli’s allegation against his leadership ability, Steenhuisen said: “I wish all fellow candidates the very best.”

Ntuli addressed a press briefing in Joburg yesterday to officially inform the public about her leadership ambitions.

Two DA MPs based in KwaZulu-Natal also expressed confidence in Ntuli’s capability to lead the party.

Whoever wins the race for the top job will replace Mmusi Maimane, who resigned from the party after former Western Cape premier Helen Zille was elected as the DA’s federal council chairperson. “She has the push, she has the experience and she had the understanding of the organisation from top to bottom, and there is no question about it,” said one of the MPs, who requested to remain anonymous.

Another provincial leader said Ntuli demonstrated good leadership from the time she was DA’s youth leader to the time she was provincial campaign director in her KwaZulu-Natal home province.

Ntuli boasts that as campaign director she managed to grow support during last year’s general election from 12.76% to 13.9%, and also increased its provincial seats from 10 to 11.

“It was the only province in which the party grew its support in the 2019 elections,” she said.

In her past 12 years in the party, she founded the DA Student Organisation branch at Rhodes University while she was a student there.

In 2011, she was a councillor in eThekwini’s Bhambayi area. The following year, she was elected first national chairperson of the DA Youth.

“In 2012, I led the DA’s first real march, which was the march for the youth wage subsidy.

“In 2013 I was elected DA Youth leader,” she said.

As the country prepared for the 2016 local government poll, provincial DA leader Zwakele Mncwango assigned Ntuli to campaign for the party in Umkhanyakude District Municipality, in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

“I built branches where none existed before, resulting in the party winning its first council seats in every municipality in that district in the 2016 elections,” she said.

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