Cachalia keen to re­struc­ture Gaut­eng DA if elected

Saturday Star - - INSIGHT - KEVIN RITCHIE

ALL EYES might be on the ANC elec­tive con­fer­ence next month, but there’s another politi­cal bat­tle play­ing out a fort­night ahead of it.

On the week­end of Novem­ber 18/19, the DA in Gaut­eng will be elect­ing its new chair­per­son, leader and deputy chair; three key po­si­tions in the run-up to the in­creas­ingly con­testable 2019 general elec­tions.

The in­cum­bent pro­vin­cial leader John Moodey will be at­tempt­ing to win his fourth term, but Ghaleb Cachalia is de­ter­mined to take him on – and win.

Cachalia, the scion of the well­known Strug­gle fam­ily, shocked many when he joined the DA 18 months ago, just ahead of the 2015 mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions. He stood as the party’s may­oral can­di­date in Ekurhu­leni, drop­ping the ANC ma­jor­ity from 62% of the vote to 48%, ef­fect­ing a big­ger swing to the DA – per­form­ing bet­ter, say some DA mem­bers – than the may­oral cam­paigns in Jo­han­nes­burg and Tsh­wane, on a frac­tion of the bud­get the oth­ers had. Cachalia is un­abashed. “I’m seen as the new boy at the school who sud­denly wants to be­come head boy, but I’m not a ca­reer politi­cian. This year I’ll be 61, I moth­balled my busi­ness in­ter­ests be­cause I want to make a dif­fer­ence.

“You know (South Africa) had a great leader in (Nel­son) Man­dela and then we went to sleep, only to wake up to a night­mare. That’s why I de­cided to join the coali­tion of the will­ing to make a dif­fer­ence.”

His sup­port­ers, how­ever, be­lieve the big­gest dif­fer­ence that Cachalia can make is to ac­tu­ally re­vive a party that has not only flat­lined, but ac­tu­ally dipped in Gaut­eng in re­cent elec­tions. “Quite frankly,” said one of Cachalia’s back­ers who is not autho­rised to speak to the me­dia, “Moodey shows wor­ry­ing trends of racial pol­i­tics and grow­ing il­lib­er­al­ism. What we need to win in 2019 is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ap­proach, one that isn’t go­ing to hap­pen with Moodey still at the helm.”

Cachalia won’t speak about the mer­its or oth­er­wise of the cur­rent politi­cal leader in Gaut­eng – to do so would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate and against party pol­icy, he says – choos­ing in­stead to speak about what his lead­er­ship will of­fer if he is elected.

“I stand for lib­er­al­ism with a small ‘l’. I’m not pre­pared to be ANC-lite, but rather, if elected, take on the con­tentious is­sues like race, BEE and land re­form.

“I’m not wor­ried about the op­tics of the party, we have to get the fun­da­men­tals right. If you get hung up on fash­ion­ing a colour pal­ette, you miss the ker­nel of the is­sue; land re­form is about mak­ing the soil pro­duc­tive, BEE is about broad­en­ing the econ­omy, not just creat­ing elites.”

A key rafter of his plat­form is to change the struc­ture of the party in Gaut­eng.

“We have to del­e­gate au­thor­ity, not tasks. We have to en­sure the ward coun­cil­lors, the ac­tivists at grass roots are em­pow­ered to fash­ion pol­icy be­cause they are the ones who are clos­est to the vot­ers.”

His sup­port­ers be­lieve it is this that dif­fer­en­ti­ates him from Moodey.

“Moodey is a ca­reer politi­cian, he’s a street fighter, big on slo­gans and big on re­la­tion­ships.

“Ghaleb is com­ing in with none of that bag­gage, only a vi­sion and a de­ter­mi­na­tion to make change hap­pen. He’s a worka­holic who melds the best of his ac­tivist back­ground with a thor­ough cor­po­rate back­ground.

“Too many of the cur­rent lead­ers and elected of­fi­cials are ca­reerists, un­will­ing to rock the boat for fear of los­ing their perks of of­fice. That’s politi­cal sui­cide,” said one of his sup­port­ers.

What con­cerns Cachalia is the in­ert­ness of prospec­tive DA can­di­dates who are un­able to en­vis­age a dif­fer­ent pol­icy to that of the ANC.

“The ANC’s poli­cies aren’t ac­tu­ally that bad, they’re just not be­ing im­ple­mented prop­erly,” he says. “When you put this to prospec­tive can­di­dates, they agree with you, which is ter­ri­fy­ing be­cause it speaks to the shal­low­ness of the ‘blue wa­ter’ that should be the ide­o­log­i­cal di­vide be­tween the ANC and the DA. “We’re not so­cial­ists, we’re fun­da­men­tally lib­er­als who be­lieve in the free mar­ket and in­di­vid­ual choice, we have to grasp the net­tle and dis­cuss thorny is­sues like race, BEE and land. There are peo­ple in the party who are scared that we will lose votes if we do this, but I be­lieve if we do it prop­erly and with DA val­ues as our lodestar, we will win more sup­port. “We can’t be fel­low trav­ellers any more, we have to do it prop­erly, we have to lead prop­erly.”

Cachalia grew up the son of ac­tivists in Vrede­dorp and Fords­burg in Jo­han­nes­burg. His fa­ther, Yusuf, was sec­re­tary of the SA In­dian Congress and played a key role in the De­fi­ance Cam­paign, be­ing joint sec­re­tary with Wal­ter Sisulu. His mother, Amina, was a life­long ac­tivist.

They sent him to Swazi­land to be ed­u­cated and from there to ex­ile in Wales when his pass­port was con­fis­cated. He stud­ied at the Univer­sity of Lon­don. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing, he re­ceived his pass­port again, re­turned home and promptly had it re­moved by the apartheid govern­ment. He stud­ied law at Wits, but was in­volved in stu­dent pol­i­tics to such an ex­tent that he was de­tained and never com­pleted his de­gree.

He joined his fa­ther in their cloth­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness, start­ing at the bot­tom and even­tu­ally run­ning it. Af­ter the ad­vent of democ­racy and the threat of huge com­pe­ti­tion from the Far East, he sold the busi­ness, re­tain­ing one re­tail out­let which he trans­ferred to the long-serv­ing staff.

He started a man­age­ment con­sul­tancy, joined a ven­ture cap­i­tal firm as an ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor as well as hold­ing a num­ber of di­rec­tor­ships, in­clud­ing Namdeb, di­a­mond miner De Beers’ Namib­ian op­er­a­tion.

Cachalia is more than just a dark horse in the lead­er­ship race.

The re­cent Jo­han­nes­burg re­gional elec­tive con­fer­ence de­liv­ered all 12 po­si­tions to can­di­dates who have al­ready backed his bid for the pro­vin­cial lead­er­ship. Ekurhu­leni held its re­gional con­fer­ence last Satur­day, with seven of the 10 po­si­tions – with the ex­cep­tion of the lead­er­ship and fi­nance – go­ing to Cachalia’s camp.

Tsh­wane still needs to be tested, as does the West Rand, while Mid­vaal is small but still sig­nif­i­cant.

Cachalia doesn’t want to read too much into the re­sults.

“There’s fer­tile ground to be de­liv­ered and de­vel­oped and 2019 looms large. I in­tend to give it my all. Gaut­eng is the pri­mary bat­tle­ground, which is why I have put my hat into the ring to stand as leader.

“The DA has a fight­ing chance of col­lar­ing a sub­stan­tial num­ber of the votes in the prov­ince, but to do so it needs a seam­less ma­chine that de­liv­ers, or­gan­ises and in­spires.

“Right now within the DA, we are de­ter­min­ing how best to po­si­tion our­selves for this bat­tle.

“In a sense, we are con­duct­ing our own in­ter­nal bat­tle, but let’s be clear, this is not a bat­tle of fac­tion against fac­tion. We are in this all to­gether. If we fail, South Africa fails.”

Ghaleb Cachalia, dressed in black ear­lier this week in sup­port of #Black­Mon­day, in his lounge in his house in Joburg’s north­ern sub­urbs.

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