The upcoming DA federal congress represents a watershed moment for our party, but also for South Africa, as we head into one of the most highly contested local government elections next year.
Factionalism and divisive leadership battles can destroy political parties, or prevent them from truly getting off the ground in the first place. This is a lesson I learned very personally, and very painfully, in the Congress of the People (Cope).
Outgoing DA leader Helen Zille’s desire to see a short and sharp succession race following her decision to stand down as party leader was, in my view, in the best interest of the party and party unity. This is particularly important in the run up to a critical election for both the DA and the country.
Public campaigning for internal DA elections are, however, part and parcel of how we do things in the DA. The voters roll for any election is made available to candidates and they are given an opportunity to engage with each delegate directly, as well as in a number of debates hosted by the party. Additionally, endorsements by individuals within the party are also common. Endorsements, as with everything else around internal elections, are governed by a code of conduct. For example, no structure of the party, for example the province of Gauteng, its provincial executive or provincial council, may endorse a particular candidate.
In the spirit of party unity, and in believing it important to avoid incredibly divisive and faction-driven internal political campaigning, I have indicated that I do not wish to — or believe it is good to — publicly support a particular candidate for DA federal leader.
I have no doubt in my mind about who I will support and vote for in the other positions. I believe Makashule Gana is the perfect candidate for our new federal chairperson; with Desiree van der Walt, Stevens Mokgalapa and Dr Ivan Meyer as deputy federal chairpersons.
In the subsequent election in the federal council I am unwavering in my support for current deputy chairperson of the federal council, Thomas Walters, to remain in this position and continue the work he has been doing in the organisational and institutional renewal of the party and its strategic review. I also wholeheartedly support DA KwaZulu-Natal federal finance chair Alf Lees in his bid to succeed Dr Dion George as federal finance chair.
This is a truly diverse, South African federal leadership drawing from across all demographics and, importantly, with a wide geographic spread, from Limpopo to Gauteng, the Western Cape, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal. More importantly, this team possesses the requisite diversity in skills, experience and qualifications to provide truly visionary and capable leadership.
The contest for federal leader has, however, since become a very clear two-horse race between the only two serious candidates: current federal chairperson, Dr Wilmot James, and the parliamentary leader and deputy federal chairperson, Mmusi Maimane. Other serious contenders, Western Cape leader Patricia de Lille and Gauteng leader John Moodey, have decided to focus on their respective provinces ahead of next year’s elections, and rightly so.
Unlike the protracted and destructive leadership battle in Cope, the DA leadership race is not about personalities and egos, but about ideas and differing approaches to embracing the future of the party and the DA as the party of the future.
In this context it becomes easier to associate with a specific set of ideas and a particular approach to the road ahead for our party.
We can no longer adopt a “wait-and-see” approach or sit on the fence waiting in anticipation of things to happen. South Africans, and those of us in the DA, must take a firm position on what we want our future to look like and who we want to task with making that future a reality for all South Africans.
It has become apparent that the two-horse leadership race is a clear choice between the future and a nostalgic longing for the past. iDA ayisafani!
We must build on the legacy of outgoing DA leader Helen Zille who, with visionary leadership, rallied DA members, activists and public representatives around the clarion call for a new, diverse DA for all South Africans at the centre of South African politics.
Her legacy has made it possible for many critics and sceptics to not only consider the DA as a viable and serious political alternative, but also to join the party and enthusiastically contribute to our vision and mission.
Her legacy is a party committed to the Constitution, an open opportunity society for all, a market economy premised on open competition and choice and the National Development Plan as a blueprint for the kind of South Africa we all want to live in.
We look to the future, to a tomorrow we can believe in, and we look to leadership that not only embraces the legacy of Helen Zille, but also embraces the future, embodies the future, and will ensure that the DA remains the party of the future.
It is clear to me and many of my colleagues, friends, DA members, activists and supporters, that this set of ideas and this particular approach to the future of the DA is embraced by, and indeed embodied in, DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane.
There are concerns in some quarters about his experience and skills. These have, in my view, been proven unfounded to date. Mmusi’s consultative approach to leadership has demonstrated that he is a team player who draws from the strengths of all colleagues and stakeholders. Many of his detractors have been proven wrong on many occasions. Mmusi has excelled in his role as DA Johannesburg mayoral candidate and caucus leader, as DA Gauteng premier candidate, and has exceeded expectations as DA parliamentary leader.
I look forward to continue working with Mmusi as parliamentary leader, and soon enough, as DA federal leader, as we march towards 2016 and to the Union Buildings.
South Africans can once again believe in tomorrow.