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DA bars candidates for federal council chair job from a scheduled live TV debate

Former DA leader Helen Zille is vying for the party's second most powerful position.
Former DA leader Helen Zille is vying for the party's second most powerful position.
Image: Supplied

The DA has at the eleventh hour barred the candidates who will be contesting the federal council chairperson position from debating each other live on television this evening.

Former DA leader Helen Zille, federal chairperson Athol Trollip and Mike Waters were set to go against each other in an anticipated debate at 9pm on eNCA ahead of the federal council meeting this weekend where one of them will get elected as chairperson.

Desiree van der Walt, officer presiding over the party’s council elections, said informed the candidates yesteday to not take part in the public debate as the elections were an internal matter.

She said that as a presiding officer, she was not informed about the planned debate and only became aware of it yesterday afternoon following complaints raised by party members.

“Yesterday afternoon I was informed by various DA members raising concerns about this, saying it was an internal election and not for the public,” said Van der Walt.

“I wrote them a circular yesterday saying it has come to my attention that they were to take part in a public debate and that I recommend they do not participate.”

She said that she was not barring the candidates from doing media interviews but that a debate, where the public would also take part in, was not permissible in the party.

Asked why the party prevents its leaders from debating in public for a position in which they would serve the same public, Van Der Walt maintained that elections and matters to be discussed at the federal council meeting were private.

“I said that they must refrain from debates of this nature, which [will] be in public because this election is an internal election. The matters discussed are not public matters but party matters.

“The public surely has a right and an interest in this vote but the interest is mainly on the candidates,” she said.

She said that the debate was not organised with the knowledge and permission of the party “at all” and that as a presiding officer she could “not allow it” to take place.

eNCA reported that its editor Jeremy Maggs expressed his disappointment at the last minute cancellation, especially by a party that has positioned itself as champions of free speech and rigorous debate.

The contestants for the DA federal council chairperson position had not responded to questions by the time of publishing.

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