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John Steenhuisen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Steenhuisen

John Steenhuisen.jpg
Steenhuisen in 2020
Leader of the Opposition
Assumed office
27 October 2019
PresidentCyril Ramaphosa
Preceded byAnnelie Lotriet (acting)
Mmusi Maimane
Federal Leader of the Democratic Alliance
Assumed office
1 November 2020
Interim: 17 November 2019 – 1 November 2020
ChairIvan Meyer
Preceded byMmusi Maimane
Chief Whip of the Official Opposition
In office
29 May 2014 – 24 October 2019
DeputyJacques Julius
Mike Waters
LeaderMmusi Maimane
Preceded byWatty Watson
Succeeded byJacques Julius (acting)
Natasha Mazzone
Member of the National Assembly of South Africa
Assumed office
19 July 2011
Member of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Legislature
In office
6 May 2009 – 19 July 2011
Personal details
John Henry Steenhuisen

(1976-03-25) 25 March 1976 (age 44)
Durban, Natal, South Africa
Political partyDemocratic Alliance (2000–present)
Other political
Democratic Party (Until 2000)
Terry Steenhuisen (née Kass Beaumont)
(m. 2014)

Julie Steenhuisen (née Wright)
(m. 2000; div. 2010)
Alma materNorthwood Boys High School
London School of Economics

John Henry Steenhuisen (born 25 March 1976) is a South African politician who has served as the leader of the Opposition since October 2019 and has been the federal leader of the Democratic Alliance since November 2020, having served as the interim leader for one year from November 2019. He was chief whip of the official opposition from May 2014 until October 2019. Ideologically, Steenhuisen has been described as a liberal and a supporter of non-racialism.[1]

Born in Durban, he matriculated from Northwood Boys' High School in 1993 and studied political science at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Steenhuisen joined the Democratic Party and was elected to the Durban City Council in 1999 as the councillor for Durban North. In 2000, the Democratic Alliance was formed, and he was elected as a councillor of the newly formed eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality in that year's municipal election. He was appointed as the DA's caucus leader in 2006.

After the 2009 elections, he became a member of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature and was appointed the DA's caucus leader. Soon after, Steenhuisen was elected as the party's KwaZulu-Natal provincial leader, a position he held until he resigned in October 2010, amid an extramarital affair. He joined the National Assembly in July 2011, and he became the Shadow Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs in February 2012 following his appointment by Lindiwe Mazibuko.

In 2014, Steenhuisen was appointed chief whip of the official opposition by Mmusi Maimane, the newly elected DA parliamentary leader. He served as chief whip until October 2019, when Maimane resigned as the DA parliamentary leader and party leader. Shortly afterwards, Steenhuisen was elected unopposed to replace him as the DA parliamentary leader. In November 2019, he was elected interim leader of the DA, after he defeated Makashule Gana, a DA MPL in Gauteng. A year later, he was elected leader for a full term at the party's Federal Congress, defeating Mbali Ntuli, a DA MPL from KwaZulu-Natal.

Early life and education

Steenhuisen was born in Durban and matriculated from Northwood Boys' High School, an English-medium high school in Durban, in 1993.[2] He went on to study political science at the London School of Economics and Political Science, but never obtained a university degree.[3] He once told Parliament that he had enrolled for a bachelor's degree in politics and law at the University of South Africa in 1994, but he could not finish the course due to work and financial circumstances.[4][5]

Political career

Steenhuisen started as an ordinary Democratic Party (predecessor to the Democratic Alliance) activist before he became a branch member.[6]

In 1999, at the age of 22, Steenhuisen was elected to the then Durban City Council as the councillor for Durban North. He was the youngest municipal councillor at that time. After the 2000 municipal election, the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality was formed. He continued to serve as an ordinary councillor until his appointment as the DA's caucus leader in 2006. In that same year, he was assigned to serve on the city's Executive Committee.[7][6]

Winston Rabotapi and Steenhuisen in 2011
Winston Rabotapi and Steenhuisen in 2011

Steenhuisen was elected to the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature in the 2009 general election. The incoming DA caucus elected him as leader, replacing party veteran Roger Burrows.[8] At the inaugural sitting, he challenged Zweli Mkhize of the African National Congress for the post of premier, but lost after he received 7 votes compared to Mkhize's 68 votes.[9]

He was elected as the KwaZulu-Natal provincial leader of the Democratic Alliance at the party's Provincial Congress held later that same year. Steenhuisen held this position until 24 October 2010, after he announced on 18 October his intention to resign amid the disclosure of an extramarital affair. Steenhuisen continued to serve as an MPL and the DA's caucus leader until his move to the National Assembly.[6][10][11]

Steenhuisen joined the National Assembly on 19 July 2011 by replacing Mark Steele, a DA MP who, in turn, assumed Steenhuisen's seat in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature.[6] In February 2012, Steenhuisen was appointed by Lindiwe Mazibuko as Shadow Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.[12] He is currently a member of the Rules Committee. He had previously served as a member of the Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management.[13]

In 2012, he declared his candidacy for deputy chairperson of the DA Federal Council.[14] He lost to Thomas Walters at the party's Federal Congress.[15]

Steenhuisen was appointed as chief whip of the DA parliamentary caucus by Mmusi Maimane on 29 May 2014.[16] He was reappointed to the post in May 2019.[17]

Steenhuisen is known for his oratory skills and has delivered many speeches to Parliament that have been noted for their wit and incisive criticism of African National Congress (ANC) leadership, including previous South African President Jacob Zuma.[18][19]

Leadership of the Democratic Alliance

Mmusi Maimane resigned as both Federal Leader and Parliamentary Leader of the DA in October 2019, causing Steenhuisen to lose the title of chief whip. Steenhuisen's deputy, Jacques Julius, then served as acting chief whip.[20] Steenhuisen declared his candidacy to succeed Maimane as parliamentary leader and was elected unopposed on 27 October 2019.[21][22] He formally announced on 28 October that he would run for federal leader of the party.[23][24] Steenhuisen appointed Natasha Mazzone as the new chief whip of the DA parliamentary caucus on 31 October.[25] He was elected interim leader of the party on 17 November, defeating Gauteng MPL Makashule Gana.[26]

In the early days of Steenhuisen's leadership, the party lost control of the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality in December 2019.[27] In August 2016, then-DA leader Maimane formed an informal alliance with the Economic Freedom Fighters to secure control of several hung municipalities, including Johannesburg with Herman Mashaba of the DA as the city's mayor.[28] Mashaba resigned as mayor in October 2019 and left office in November.[29] A vacancy was therefore created. DA Federal Council chair Helen Zille and Steenhuisen both opposed a coalition agreement with the EFF.[30] On 4 December, the ANC regained control of the city of Johannesburg.[31] Previous DA coalition partners and a few DA councillors voted for the ANC candidate, Geoff Makhubo.[32]

On 15 February 2020, he declared his intention to seek a full-term as Federal Leader of the DA at the Hellenic Community Centre in Mouille Point, Cape Town.[33][34][35] The party was scheduled to elect its new leadership at its Federal Congress in May 2020 but this was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[36] Consequently, Steenhuisen suspended all campaign activities.[37]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the DA launched a coronavirus information channel.[38] On 8 May 2020, Steenhuisen delivered a speech in which he called for the national lockdown to be ended. Steenhuisen called the lockdown “destructive” and said, “there is no longer a justification to keep this hard lockdown in place.” He also said that the DA had written to the International Monetary Fund and filed a PAIA complaint to obtain the minutes of the National Command Council's decision to retain the tobacco ban.[39][40][41]

Also in May 2020, the DA's Federal Council, the second-highest decision-making body, resolved to hold the conference virtually between 31 October and 1 November,[42] a move which some critics denounced as being favourable to Steenhuisen's campaign, as he has a public profile and access to party structures, giving him an advantage.[43] He faced KwaZulu-Natal MPL Mbali Ntuli for the position. As the campaign progressed, he received endorsements from prominent party members, including Western Cape provincial leader Bonginkosi Madikizela and interim federal chairperson Ivan Meyer.[44] On 1 November 2020, Steenhuisen was announced as the new leader of the party.[45]

On 3 November 2020, Steenhuisen attended the launch of the African Formosa Club, an African interparliamentarian organization established to support the Republic of China in their respective governments.[46]

On 5 December 2020, Steenhuisen announced his Shadow Cabinet.[47] The majority of the positions remained unchanged, with Geordin Hill-Lewis remaining at Finance, Andrew Whitfield at Police and Siviwe Gwarube at Health. He removed Phumzile van Damme as Shadow Minister of Communications and replaced her with Zakhele Mbhele. He also granted Van Damme a health-related sabbatical until March 2021.[48] She subsequently accused Steenhuisen of trying to use her health sideline her, as her sick leave was due to end on 15 December 2020, and she was in good health. She described the sabbatical as "unsolicited" as it was not based on her health but rather Steenhuisen’s intention to sideline her despite being a top performing MP. It was claimed that she was being sidelined because she had not supported Steenhuisen candidature as leader of the party[49] The DA disputed Van Damme's accusation, but she vehemently insisted that Steenhuisen had instructed her to cease all her parliamentary duties and go on an unsolicited sabbatical. She further added that she saw the decision to place her on the unsolicited sabbatical as also an attempt to control her life and body. [50][51][52][53][54] Steenhuisen then claimed he had made the sabbatical optional and Van Damme could continue with her parliamentary duties.[55] Van Damme again disputed this and insisted the sabbatical was not made optional and that she was directed by Steenhuisen to cease all her parliamentary duties while on a 3-month sabbatical. She later said she would abide by his instruction, go on sabbatical while legally challenging what she saw as an abuse of power by Steenhuisen.[54] [56] [57][58] On 12 February 2021, Van Damme announced that her disagreement with Steenhuisen regarding her sabbatical had been resolved and she would return to work, focusing on digital technologies.[59][60][61]

Personal life

He currently resides in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal and is a supporter of the Sharks rugby union team and AmaZulu F.C. football club.[7] Steenhuisen was married for 10 years to Julie Steenhuisen (née Wright), a fellow Durban native. They were divorced in October 2010, amid public revelations of his ongoing affair with Terry Kass Beaumont, the DA's provincial spokesperson and wife of Michael Beaumont, the DA's provincial director. As a result of the affair Steenhuisen resigned as the Provincial Leader of Kwazulu-Natal, and swapped his place in Kwazulu-Natal Legislature to become an MP. [62] Steenhuisen has two daughters from his first marriage.[63] He is now married to Terry, and they have a daughter together. He is fluent in both English and Afrikaans.[64][65][66][67]


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  2. ^ Mtshali, Samkelo (29 October 2019). "John Steenhuisen's lack of post-matric qualifications back in spotlight". IOL. Durban. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  3. ^ Head, Tom (17 November 2019). "DA leadership battle: Qualifications of John Steenhuisen vs Makashule Gana". The South African. Retrieved 6 January 2021.
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  35. ^ Chothia, Andrea (15 February 2020). "'I want to free you from Eskom,' says John Steenhuisen". The South African. Retrieved 15 February 2020.
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External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Mmusi Maimane
Federal Leader of the Democratic Alliance
Political offices
Preceded by
Mmusi Maimane
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly of South Africa
Preceded by
Watty Watson
Chief Whip of the Official Opposition in the National Assembly of South Africa
Succeeded by
Jacques Julius (acting)
Natasha Mazzone
This page was last edited on 28 February 2021, at 18:49
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