With just five days before the DA elects a new leader, supporters of interim leader John Steenhuisen and Mbali Ntuli claimed victory in the party's first internal debate on Monday.
Debating took place virtually and was closed to the media as part of the DA’s strict rules governing the debates.
Sources told News24 the debate was chaired by mayoral committee member in the City of Cape Town Xanthea Limberg.
Ntuli and Steenhuisen agreed to Limberg chairing the debate.
Both candidates were each given five minutes for opening statements and were asked 10 questions each, for which they could speak for two minutes at a time.
READ | John Steenhuisen vs Mbali Ntuli: DA leadership candidates speak ahead of conference
They were then given a three-minute window for closing statements.
"Delegates also sent through questions where one question was about the DA’s position on the Senekal matter and another was on the perception that the DA was a party focused on minorities. Other themes were the economy, race, and DA internal dynamics," an insider said.
Asked for comment on the debate, both Steenhuisen and Ntuli’s campaign teams declined to comment.
Supporters of both sides, however, claimed victory.
The closed debate follows the DA’s hard line approach against simmering divisions within the party.
It has adopted strict rules for internal campaigning which includes prohibiting leadership candidates from approaching existing party donors.
READ ALSO | DA elective congress: Voting to take place via secret ballots and secret codes
Anyone addressing delegates or who is otherwise involved in the production, administration, or chairing of a meeting in which elections of candidates occurs may not do so while wearing the promotional material of a candidate until after the election, in which that candidate is standing.
The DA also resolved election debates will be handled by a presiding officer, or person nominated by the federal council, who shall co-ordinate arrangements for official party debates.
The DA’s rule book said one or all of the official debates may take place partly or wholly online, and at least one shall be wholly online.
Other party bodies may only host candidate debates if they invite all candidates to attend, but they do not require the agreement of all candidates to attend or to send a representative in order to proceed.
The four candidates vying for the three deputy federal chairperson positions will take part in an internal debate on Tuesday.
Anton Bredell, Annelie Lotriet, Refiloe Nt'sekhe, and Jacques Smalle will be contesting the three positions.
On Wednesday, Ntuli and Steenhuisen will square off in the final debate before the congress kicks off at the weekend.