Zille for Gauteng premier?

2013-07-28 14:00

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DA leader Helen Zille has been asked to stand as her party’s candidate for Gauteng premier ahead of next year’s general elections.

DA lobbyists in the province approached her because the party is spending millions on its campaign in Gauteng and they believe a high-profile premier candidate could tip the scales in the party’s favour.

City Press has learnt the DA is pouring R100?million of its total R173?million elections war chest into winning Gauteng, where party insiders say the ANC is currently polling at 51% of the vote.

This means an opposition win, led by the DA, is within reach, although DA insiders admit it will be tough.

“The party is making a huge investment and we obviously want a candidate to match,” an activist close to the party’s provincial inner circle said.

“Zille was asked to stand and she said she would consider it, but she would have to be convinced,” he said.

But Zille on Friday confirmed she would not be standing.

DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, party spokesperson Mmusi Maimane, Gauteng DA leader John Moodey and member of the provincial legislature Jack Bloom were also mentioned as possible candidates.

A party staffer close to the process of identifying a premier candidate said Agang SA leader Mamphela Ramphele was also considered.

“Our assessment of the polls is that we will win a coalition government with Ramphele as premier, because all her foot soldiers and volunteers are (in Gauteng),” he said.

“But we decided against it, because then you might as well ask people to vote for Agang SA and not the DA.”

According to the DA’s own polls, presented at a provincial leadership meeting earlier this month, Agang SA had between 4% and 8% support in the province.

Zille confirmed to City Press that her name was among “a number of potential candidates” which were evaluated to become the party’s Gauteng premier.

She said her nomination has been “a peripheral topic of discussion” but she said “I don’t believe it is a good idea and I will not stand”.

Zille, who was born in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, and who grew up in the city, added that “you have to live in a province if you are the premier”.

She is currently the Western Cape premier and lives in an official residence in Cape Town, but also has a home in Rondebosch.

She said she had spoken informally to opposition parties and believed it was possible to form a coalition in the province “with parties who share our core values”.

So far, Bloom and Maimane have emerged as the only two possible contenders for nomination as Gauteng premier, with party insiders saying Maimane was the stronger candidate.

Nominations for party lists opened last Monday (July 22) and close on Wednesday (July 31). The party’s electoral college will decide on a candidate on August 9.

Bloom confirmed he would be available for nomination, but Maimane was more cautious.

“If they nominate me, I am most likely to accept and take it forward from there,” he said.

Moodey said he preferred not to stand and to remain “neutral” so that he could lead the province during the elections.

“My objective, my personal ambition, is to win Gauteng. It is not my personal ambition to be premier,” he said.

Mazibuko did not respond to a call and an SMS, but the party staffer said her nomination wasn’t serious and was more of an attempt to play her and Maimane off against one another.

He said it was unlikely that she would stand.

Gauteng DA chairperson Mike Moriarty confirmed Gauteng would receive the “lion’s share” of the DA’s elections budget, and that R100?million “sounds about right”.

He said the figure was based on projections and the party could adjust it according to the amount of money raised.

The budget is roughly three times more than the R65?million the party spent fighting the 2011 elections and the just over R60?million for the 2009 elections.

City Press understands the DA has identified possible MECs for Gauteng to prevent a repeat of Zille’s all-male and nearly all-white 2009 Western Cape cabinet, which sparked an outcry.

“This time we want to plan ahead and be prepared,” a party leader said.

The ANC received 64% of the vote across the country in the last general elections in 2009 compared with the DA’s 22.5%.

The DA is pinning its hopes on the growth in its Gauteng vote in 2011 to 33.4% and the ANC’s decline to 60.8%, even though local and general election results are difficult to compare.

 » Talk to us: Would making Zille the DA's candidate for premier in Gauteng help the party win the province? Tell us why

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