DA set for bruising contest in upcoming conferences
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.