The Democratic Alliance (DA) is embroiled in controversy as allegations surface about misuse of party funds to promote leader John Steenhuisen.
These claims, brought forward by expelled member Tsepo Mhlongo and supported by former youth leader Mbali Ntuli, suggest deep-seated issues within the party’s leadership and campaign practices.
Mhlongo – a 25 year veteran of the DA – made the allegations in a letter posted to social media where he set “the record straight” after his expulsion from the party for “misconduct based on dishonesty in the performance of his duties”.
The DA expelled Mhlongo on Friday, together with three other leaders, Nqaba Bhanga (former Eastern Cape party leader), Grantham Steenkamp (Northern Cape MPL), and Joburg councillor Kabelo Thobejane.
Mhlongo an MP, was charged in 2021 with what was called “kitchen canvassing” where incorrect data was captured and where he, as the political head of the Orlando East constituency, had to be held accountable.
He alleges, however, that his purge from the DA was related to him blowing the whistle on alleged corruption of a party bank account that was used to fund John Steenhuisen’s campaign.
He says that the case he opened “was swept under the carpet and no proper investigation or no process of disciplinary action was followed”.
Mhlongo’s claims were given credence when former DA youth leader, turned grassroots activist, Mbali Ntuli, waded in about her own experience.
Ntuli said: “When I ran for DA leader in 2020 I was made aware from various quarters that party money was being used to fund John Steenhuisen’s campaign. This was in direct violation of party rules.”
She said that during that campaign every move she made was countered with new rules and rules being amended to hinder her campaign.
“In some instances, to test the party I would do the same breaking of the rules as my opponent only for neither of us to be sanctioned but rather for a blanket ruling to be made,” she said.
Ntuli said that during the campaign, people would send her salacious information, including but not limited to, campaign finances to use against Steenhuisen, but she chose not to use it.
“It is therefore unsurprising but still disappointing to find that in fact one the matters raised by the DA’s newly fired MP Tsepo Mhlongo is that he ruffled feathers by pointing out that a fellow MP used party funds to fund John’s campaign. I don’t know the extent of this charge but tracks with the rules for some and not others of this current political leadership of the DA,” she said.
Ntuli added, “I wish Tsepo and others had had the courage at the time to say these things. Some of us always did even when we knew it was to our detriment to speak up for others and to tell the truth. For me personally it would have been great to have fought an election without having the party machinery, structures and money being used inappropriately to skew things in favour of one candidate. There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing you haven’t had a fair chance at something. I say this without being naive about general politics of course, nothing is fair but cheating is loserish behaviour. Anyway one knew in finality once the voting system was changed, despite my team showing how easy it was to rig, that the vote was a done deal.”
Werner Horn, the DA national spokesman, said the party took all complaints of possible misconduct seriously and handled them in accordance with their Federal Constitution.
“In the case of Mr Tsepo Mhlongo, he was given a fair opportunity to address the serious allegations against him during a formal hearing, where he was found guilty of misconduct based on dishonesty in the performance of his duties. It is important to note that ongoing disciplinary processes involving other members do not imply preferential treatment; each case is thoroughly investigated, and due process is followed,” Horn said.
About Ntuli’s claims, Horn added: “Ms Ntuli, who has not been a member of the DA for the past 20 months, continues to comment on the party’s affairs. This seems to reflect more on her unresolved sentiments regarding her unsuccessful bid for the Federal Leader position than on the internal processes of the Party or the conduct of Federal Leader John Steenhuisen.
“While the DA and Mr Steenhuisen acknowledge the scrutiny that comes with leadership roles, the recent unsubstantiated allegations made by Ms Ntuli are false, defamatory, and will lead to legal consequences. The DA condemns baseless accusations and will take action against those who spread false information for personal gain.”
Horn said that in response to the defamatory statements from Ntuli and Mhlongo, the party planned to pursue legal action.
“It is time to hold accountable those who spread fake news and make wild claims without evidence. The DA will not stand idly by while its leaders are unjustly slandered by individuals driven by personal resentment rather than factual evidence. We remain committed to transparency, accountability, and the principles that guide our party. The DA will continue to focus on serving the interests of the South African people and promoting a fair and just political landscape,” Horn said.