Zille asks James Selfe to lead DA caucus

2014-05-18 15:01

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DA leader Helen Zille has asked James Selfe, the chairperson of the party’s federal caucus, to run as caucus leader in Parliament.

Selfe declined the request, but the fact that Zille even approached him signals an apparent about-turn by the leader who has until now been seen to be backing party spokesperson Mmusi Maimane for the position.

Maimane will become an MP for the first time this week, but two leaders who attended the federal executive meeting in Joburg on Friday said they were told Zille approached Selfe because she felt Maimane needed to learn the ropes in Parliament first.

“It would have been an interim measure for a year or so, until Mmusi has settled in,” said one.

Selfe confirmed that Zille asked if he was available to stand for caucus leader on May 29, but he declined.

“I gave it some thought and I decided that my duty as chair of federal council was sufficiently complicated. I don’t think I could do justice to the parliamentary leadership.

“I don’t think there is a question of someone serving until Mmusi is ready, but there is a big caucus and you need time for the caucus to settle down.

“Many of the people are new to the caucus and to Parliament and there was a feeling that we should look at more experienced people to lead,” he said. Selfe has been in Parliament for 20 years.

Maimane did not respond to calls.

Zille said last night that she did not want to talk about caucus affairs in public.

“I always try to consider what is in the best interest of the party and the caucus,” she said, confirming she had asked “various people” to make themselves available, but declined to mention names. “I always want to encourage contestation. We don’t want a coronation,” she said.

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