Bid to ce­ment Mmusi’s po­si­tion fails

Sunday Times - - Week Re­view - By THABO MOKONE and APHIWE DEK­LERK

● DA leader Mmusi Maimane and his sup­port­ers suf­fered a ma­jor de­feat on the eve of the party’s fed­eral congress when they were forced to with­draw con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments to strengthen his grip on power.

This is ac­cord­ing to se­nior party lead­ers who at­tended a spe­cial meet­ing of the DA fed­eral coun­cil in Pre­to­ria on Fri­day. The meet­ing was to fi­nalise prepa­ra­tions and pol­icy that were due to be dis­cussed at the congress this week­end.

The se­nior party lead­ers said Maimane and the DA’s con­sti­tu­tional re­view com­mit­tee had to drop a pro­posal to ex­tend Maimane’s term from three to five years.

The com­mit­tee, headed by coun­cil chair­man James Selfe, a Maimane ally, failed to ad­vance a “po­lit­i­cally co­gent” ar­gu­ment, the lead­ers said.

Sources said Maimane’s op­po­nents in the coun­cil also blocked a pro­posal to re­duce the na­tional man­age­ment com­mit­tee.

While Maimane is due to be re-elected un­op­posed this morn­ing, the bat­tle on pol­icy and amend­ments is re­garded as a se­ri­ous test of his author­ity. Those sym­pa­thetic to Maimane said that at the last meet­ing of the out­go­ing fed­eral coun­cil Maimane won a com­pro­mise on the is­sue of race and di­ver­sity.

The stick­ing point was the pro­posal that said “the party will to the best of its abil­ity at­tempt to replicate di­ver­sity in its own ranks”, which was in­ter­preted by its op­po­nents as the in­tro­duc­tion of racial quo­tas.

Fol­low­ing a heated meet­ing on Fri­day night, the pro­posal was tight­ened to en­sure the DA ex­pressly re­jected quo­tas.

“The party will con­tinue to take ac­tive steps to pro­mote and ad­vance di­ver­sity in its own ranks,” read the com­pro­mise so­lu­tion.

Those at the meet­ing said Nelson Man­dela Bay mayor Athol Trol­lip led the de­fence of the con­sti­tu­tional pro­pos­als.

He said those op­posed to Maimane’s amend­ments on race and di­ver­sity — among them chief whip John Steen­huisen and MP Gavin Davis — ac­cepted the adop­tion of the di­ver­sity clause with the un­der­stand­ing that the largely lib­eral DA would still cham­pion in­di­vid­ual rights and an­chor its de­ploy­ment pol­icy on the “fit for pur­pose” prin­ci­ple.

DA lead­ers — among them Makashule Gana, Khume Ra­mulifho, Tsh­wane mayor Solly Msi­manga and Ma­si­zole Mn­qasela — are push­ing for an amend­ment on race and di­ver­sity but do not sup­port the five-year term or a re­duced man­age­ment com­mit­tee.

The pro­posal to re­duce the com­mit­tee to just four, in­clud­ing Maimane, would have led to the chief whip, the deputy chair­per­son of the fed­eral coun­cil, the fed­eral chair­per­son of fi­nance and the par­lia­men­tary leader left out. It was slammed as a cen­tral­i­sa­tion of power in the hands of a few.

Another prom­i­nent DA leader said: “On the five-year is­sue they ab­so­lutely stood no chance. They had to con­cede be­cause there was no real po­lit­i­cal ar­gu­ment as they were rais­ing is­sues of money and how ex­pen­sive it was to con­vene con­fer­ences in three-year in­ter­vals, and we said you can’t at­tach mon­e­tary value to is­sues of po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship when you want to project your­self as a party ready to gov­ern South Africa.”

Yes­ter­day, Davis re­fused to com­ment on spe­cific dis­cus­sions at the fed­eral coun­cil meet­ing, which were de­scribed by sources as “hec­tic”.

Davis said: “It was a very con­struc­tive meet­ing, with con­sen­sus on the need for a di­ver­sity clause rooted in lib­eral val­ues. The cul­ture of ro­bust en­gage­ment is alive and well in the DA, and it is some­thing we are very proud of.”

Ra­mulifho also de­clined to dis­cuss de­tails of the meet­ing, only de­scrib­ing it as “ro­bust”. He said: “It was a long and dif­fi­cult meet­ing. We spent three hours de­bat­ing the is­sues but even­tu­ally we found each other on the crit­i­cal is­sues.”

Maimane de­clined to speak on the closed meet­ing. But those close to him said he won the bat­tle for the fed­eral coun­cil to have pow­ers to re­call its pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives from of­fice for mis­be­hav­ing or fail­ure to per­form, among other things.

‘Ro­bust en­gage­ment is alive and well in the DA, and it is some­thing we are very proud of’

Pic­ture: Alon Skuy

A true blue trio en­ter­tain the more than 2 000 del­e­gates who de­scended on Tsh­wane this week­end for the DA’s fed­eral congress.

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