Fierce con­test for DA po­si­tions in Par­lia­ment

CityPress - - News - ANDISIWE MAKINANA andisiwe.makinana@city­

The DA will hold its midterm cau­cus elec­tions next Thurs­day to elect the new man­age­ment of the party’s cau­cus in Par­lia­ment.

Six­teen po­si­tions – the mid-man­age­ment of the cau­cus – in­clud­ing chair­per­son of the cau­cus, deputy chair­per­son and deputy chief whip are up for grabs.

The cau­cus lead­er­ship is not up for grabs this time be­cause party leader Mmusi Maimane, as the fed­eral leader, au­to­mat­i­cally be­comes a leader of any cau­cus that he be­longs to.

The chief whip’s po­si­tion, cur­rently held by John Steen­huisen, will also not be con­tested, as the DA chief whip is ap­pointed by the party leader.

Cur­rently, the deputy chief whip is Michael Wa­ters, while Anchen Dreyer chairs the cau­cus, with Richard Ma­jola as her deputy.

Party sources have told City Press about an un­prece­dented num­ber of can­di­dates who will be con­test­ing the in­ter­nal po­si­tions.

“Th­ese elec­tions are highly con­tested,” said one party mem­ber. “There are peo­ple who feel there is a deep­rooted cen­tral­i­sa­tion which is no dif­fer­ent to Luthuli House. So, the pro­gres­sives in the party want to challenge that es­tab­lish­ment.”

The source said there were ten­sions, rem­nants of the in­ter­nal cam­paign for party lead­er­ship race held in May last year.

An­other DA MP said while there is an un­prece­dented num­ber of peo­ple who are stand­ing, the cam­paign­ing has not been ac­ri­mo­nious.

The MP, who did want to be named, said peo­ple re­alise that strate­gic power in the cau­cus seems to lie in the whip­pery. “Far more peo­ple are stand­ing to en­sure the pool of power is ex­panded and not in a par­tic­u­lar ca­bal,” said the MP.

The po­si­tions also mean more money for the MPs and elected can­di­dates be­come lead­ers of their clus­ter.

City Press could not con­firm the tally or names of can­di­dates at the time of pub­lish­ing, as nom­i­na­tions closed on Fri­day af­ter­noon.

Steen­huisen ac­knowl­edged that a num­ber of MPs who were new to Par­lia­ment when the Fifth Par­lia­ment was con­vened in May 2014 were now stand­ing for cau­cus po­si­tions.

He didn’t think the con­test was “that fierce” but con­firmed that there are “a lot of can­di­dates”.

“Here you are deal­ing with es­sen­tially cau­cus man­age­ment and whip­pery po­si­tions which are very much part of the man­age­ment struc­ture of the cau­cus.

“I think it’s a trib­ute to a very well-run whip­pery in the DA cau­cus. Peo­ple in in­creas­ing num­bers want to be part of the team that man­ages cau­cus,” he said.

Steen­huisen said it was also not fair to in­sin­u­ate that there was a Luthuli House-like ca­bal run­ning the DA.

“We use a sin­gle trans­fer­able vote sys­tem in the party. It is virtually im­pos­si­ble for one group of peo­ple to keep an­other group of peo­ple out of of­fice and that is why we use that vot­ing sys­tem,” he said.

He ex­plained that the sys­tem en­sures there is no block vot­ing and one fac­tion can­not dom­i­nate it.

The sys­tem ranks all can­di­dates and the com­puter works out the fi­nal rat­ing.

“It’s done pre­cisely to pre­vent fac­tion­al­ism or one fac­tion re­ceiv­ing all the votes in the party,” he said. The elec­tions are run by a unit within the party. The last time the DA held a midterm cau­cus elec­tion, a young party spokesper­son, Lindiwe Maz­ibuko, chal­lenged Athol Trol­lip for the po­si­tion of par­lia­men­tary leader and won af­ter an ac­ri­mo­nious cam­paign that di­vided the cau­cus.

The DA cau­cus com­prises 102 MPs from both houses of Par­lia­ment.

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John Steen­huisen

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