DA in a parliamentary face-off for its soul

2011-10-01 19:48

DA spokesperson Lindiwe Mazibuko’s campaign to unseat the incumbent parliamentary leader Athol Trollip has gained momentum with three provincial leaders endorsing her candidacy.

KwaZulu-Natal (her home province), Limpopo and Mpumalanga have come out in support, while the other provinces are remaining mum.

The final decision lies with the 82-member DA caucus, along with party leader Helen Zille who will vote on October?27.

But their provinces and constituencies can influence them to choose a particular candidate.

Limpopo leader Desiree van der Walt said: “Lindiwe is a highly intelligent leader with a special vision for what South Africa can achieve. I have worked with her in Parliament and have seen how she mastered whatever subject she spoke on.”

KwaZulu-Natal leader Sizwe Mchunu said the DA was bound to grow with her in charge of the caucus. “Lindiwe has proved that she epitomises everything that the DA stands for – vision, leadership and passion for SA.”

Mpumalanga leader Anthony Benadie rubbished the argument that Mazibuko was too inexperienced to be the party’s parliamentary leader.

“Using the age issue is mischievous. It is a farce for other agendas,” he said.

The combined number of MPs from the three provinces is 13.

Mazibuko’s running mates are DA federal chairperson Wilmot James for caucus chairperson and Watty Watson for chief whip. Trollip’s team comprises Ian Davidson for chief whip and Sej Motau for caucus chairperson.

Some senior party members believe Mazibuko’s entry into the race is an attempt by Zille to consolidate her power and control, while others argue this demonstrates a commitment to transformation.

One of the party’s national leaders said: “It is not about black versus white. There is a battle for the soul of the DA.”

A DA provincial legislator said: “Many of us black members in her caucus, as generally in the party, feel that she is an appointee of Helen’s. She does not have the necessary experience or political savvy.”

The national leader was even more scathing, saying: “Not everyone who preaches the need for the DA to have a black leader believes in it. Some people are looking for leaders they can manipulate.”

Zille said she was not going to comment in any way on the leadership issue.

Party MP Ian Ollis came to Mazibuko’s defence, saying she was her own person.

“Lindiwe is not Zille’s puppet by any means. She won’t be remote controlled by Helen. She is very intelligent and independent,” he said.

Another party MP, who asked to remain anonymous, said that although Trollip had done well in the position, it was now Mazibuko’s turn.

“We must walk the talk. The majority of our leadership is white and this is worrying,” he said.

Donald Smiles, another party MP, said Trollip deserved­ re-election because he had done an outstanding job over the past two-and-a-half years.

A black provincial parliamentarian said Trollip was the right person for the job. The member lashed out at Zille, saying she had virtually done nothing to transform the party since taking over in 2007.

He said: “We still don’t have a single black person in senior position during her term of office. The provincial directors and top executive are still the same.”

Zille hit back, saying this was “complete nonsense”.

The party claims that 58% of the staff at the DA’s national head office and 53% of staff countrywide are historically disadvantaged South Africans.

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