DA set for bruis­ing con­test in up­com­ing con­fer­ences

CityPress - - News - S’THEMBILE CELE AND HLENGIWE NHLABATHI news@city­press.co.za

The prospect of gov­ern­ing the pow­er­house prov­ince of Gaut­eng in 2019 has caused a scram­bling for po­si­tions in the DA that may re­sult in the most bruis­ing con­test in the party yet.

The party’s pro­vin­cial con­fer­ences kick off next week, with the Western Cape go­ing first as the party gears up for its na­tional con­fer­ence, to be held early next year.

Party leader Mmusi Maimane ad­mit­ted this week that the party was in for try­ing times.

“The DA is a grow­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion and we are gov­ern­ing in more places. So, con­tes­ta­tion some­times be­comes about who can gain ac­cess to what,” he said.

In­sid­ers – in­clud­ing pro­vin­cial lead­ers – have told City Press that there is a se­ri­ous shift in the party as var­i­ous lobby groups will look to use the up­com­ing con­fer­ences to push their can­di­dates for key po­si­tions lead­ing up to the na­tional con­fer­ence.

“The power strug­gles have be­gun over places we gov­ern in or might gov­ern,” said an in­sider.

“There is a real de­gree of pos­si­ble power now in some places. Even in the Western Cape, you will not be­lieve the num­ber of peo­ple set­ting them­selves up for MEC po­si­tions al­ready.”

The move to se­cure top po­si­tions be­gan with the res­ig­na­tion of Athol Trol­lip – who also holds the key post of fed­eral coun­cil chair – as East­ern Cape party leader.

This was fol­lowed by Cape Town Mayor Pa­tri­cia de Lille re­lin­quish­ing her post last month as DA leader in the Western Cape. She is said to be gun­ning for the po­si­tion of pro­vin­cial premier.

The premier­ship is cur­rently held by for­mer party leader He­len Zille.

Lob­by­ists op­pos­ing the clique be­lieve that if con­tender Veliswa Mvenya emerges as pro­vin­cial leader in the East­ern Cape, it will be the first step in bring­ing about much-needed change in the DA.

Maimane is adamant that the con­tes­ta­tion will not rip the party apart, say­ing proper sys­tems are in place.

“We must just main­tain the sys­tems so that when peo­ple get elected at the end of congress, it is the cul­ture of the or­gan­i­sa­tion that wins. You can test us on that one. You don’t get elected and then re­move all the peo­ple who worked against you. I set that cul­ture, He­len be­fore me and Tony [Leon] be­fore that,” he said.

A mem­ber of the fed­eral coun­cil said this idyl­lic view would not hold true.

“Con­gresses de­ter­mine your fu­ture. If the teams Mmusi is en­dors­ing there do not win, the op­po­nents he did not en­dorse will go against him at the na­tional congress.

“While there were those who were not happy with Mmusi, there are oth­ers who want him to run for an­other term. No one wants a dis­rup­tion in the party when the ANC is also get­ting dis­rupted.”

All in­ter­nal pro­jec­tions in­di­cate that the DA is on the right track to win­ning Gaut­eng come 2019.

“Gaut­eng is the next fron­tier,” said Gaut­eng leader John Moodey.

“Who­ever gov­erns Gaut­eng oc­cu­pies the pow­er­house of South Africa. Al­ready we oc­cupy the cap­i­tal city, where the seat of power is; we oc­cupy the eco­nomic heart­beat; and, of course, in Cape Town we oc­cupy the de­ci­sion-mak­ing seat of Par­lia­ment.”

This week, Moodey out­lined a plan of ac­tion, which will be­gin in earnest next month.

He said he was look­ing to re­cruit 80 000 ac­tivists to do the ground­work and that al­ready there was a ball­park fig­ure of how much the 2019 cam­paign would cost the party.

The Gaut­eng pro­vin­cial con­fer­ence is set to take place in Au­gust, and Moodey con­firmed that he would be look­ing to re­tain his po­si­tion.

With the be­lief that Gaut­eng is as good as won, dif­fer­ent camps have started nam­ing con­tenders for the premier­ship.

Tsh­wane may­oral can­di­date Solly Msi­manga, for­mer youth leader Makashule Gana and Maimane have all been tipped for the post. But given that Gana and Msi­manga share a close al­liance, it is un­likely that they would run against each other.

The DA’s Con­sti­tu­tion, how­ever, in­di­cates that the party leader au­to­mat­i­cally gets the po­si­tion.

“The Con­sti­tu­tion says the leader of the party has the ca­pac­ity to be leader of any cau­cus that they serve in,” said Maimane.

“The rea­son is, when you ar­rive at a Western Cape cau­cus and there are prob­lems there, you as the leader must have the right to ex­er­cise that role and give lead­er­ship.

“So it could not be that I am the party leader, but in Par­lia­ment some­body could con­test and be­come leader in Par­lia­ment. You can­not have two lead­ers in the or­gan­i­sa­tion, hence this pro­vi­sion.”

Maimane de­nied hav­ing given any con­sid­er­a­tion to be­ing premier in his home prov­ince as yet, say­ing it was still too early.

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