Zille looks to grassroots

2010-07-25 13:41

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader and Western Cape Premier ­Hellen

Zille has called on her ­party faithful to be more active at grassroots level

and set their sights on taking over the country in the next election.

Speaking yesterday at the ­party’s federal congress in Cape Town;

Zille, in one of her most important policy speeches, sent out a political signal

in favour of coalition politics.

She indicated that ­cooperation with other political parties was on

the cards for next year’s ­municipal elections.

Addressing more than 1?200 delegates, Zille also warned that the DA

­refused to be held hostage by smaller parties.

She said: “The past four years we learned a lot about coalition

governments. There are people in all political parties who share our values and

if we can unite them in one political vehicle, I believe we can be the

majority.”

Zille also hailed members of her party for winning Thursday’s

by-election, saying the victory was a blow to the politics of race in the

ANC.

She said the by-election brought to 11 the number of new wards the

party has won in areas that are dominated by blacks.

“More and more South ­Africans want our politics to be an open

contest of ideas and ­values rather than a closed circle of conflict between

race groups,” she said, adding that the ­by-election proved the country’s

­democracy was working.

She said: “Nothing can ­describe the ­exhilaration you feel when

you get an SMS in the ­middle of the night saying that we have just won a 52%

majority in a voting district where there is not a ­single ­minority voter.”

Zille said she was particularly excited by the many young ­people

from all backgrounds who were making the DA their ­political home.

The DA has proposed that its constitution be amended to ­encourage

its members to record their racial identity as South ­Africans on any official

document or form which asks them to state a racial ­classification.

It said continuing to record the population by racial categories

served only to advance the ANC’s “agenda of racial ­nationalism”.

The party has also proposed that its leader in Parliament be the

head of the DA caucus in the event that the party leader is not an MP, like

Zille.

Another proposed amendment to the DA constitution is that a panel

to preside over ­internal disputes be established.

The DA won 67 seats in the ­National Assembly after last year’s

general election. In the 2004 polls, the party won 50 seats.

Zille, who took over the reins from Tony Leon on May 6 2007, will

remain at the party’s helm until 2013 as she is the only ­candidate contesting

the post of DA leader.

DA MP Wilmot James is also the only candidate for the post of

chairperson, while nine people – among them outgoing DA youth leader Khume

Ramulifho and MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard – were nominated for deputy ­federal

chair positions.

Makashule Gana (27) and Siphumle Yalezo (22) will slug it out for

Ramulifho’s position.

­Gana is a Johannesburg DA councillor while Yalezo, who lives in

Cape Town, is the chair of the DA youth branch in the N2 Development

constituency.

A total of 1?217 voting delegates are attending the congress congress, held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

The party has also proposed that a panel that would preside over

internal disputes be established and that Zille – together with mayors who lead

the party in their municipalities – take charge of the DA caucus.”

Debbie Schafer, the head of the DA constitutional review committee,

said the move came about because in the past Tony Leon, a former DA leader who

was also an MP, led the organisation in and out of Parliament.

Currently, Athol Trollip is the leader of the official opposition

in the National Assembly by virtue of his party being the country’s second

biggest political organisation and head of the DA caucus at Parliament.

“We are proposing that the premier be the leader of the DA caucus

and this would also apply to mayors where we are in control to be chairs of

caucus. Athol Trollip will continue in his role as leader of the official

opposition” but not as DA caucus leader should the proposal be accepted, Schafer

said.

The DA won 67 seats in the National Assembly after last year’s

national and provincial general elections. In the 2004 polls, the party won 50

seats.

The amendment to the DA constitution will significantly reduce the

authority of Trollip in the divided DA caucus.

Zille, who took over the reigns from Leon on May 6 2007 will remain

at the party’s helm until 2013 as she is the only candidate contesting the post

of DA leader.

DA MP Wilmot James is also the only candidate for the post of

chairperson while nine people – among them outgoing DA youth leader Khume

Ramulifho and MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard – were nominated for deputy federal chair

positions.

Makashule Gana (27) and Siphumle Yalezo (22) will slug it out for

Ramulifho’s position. Gana is a Johannesburg DA councillor while Yalezo, who

lives in Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township, is the chair of the DA youth branch

in the N2 Development constituency which he founded.

A total of 1 217 voting delegates are attending the congress.

Speaking to delegates at the opening of the congress yesterday,

Zille, buoyed by the recent by-election victories, said South Africa’s democracy

was working.

“Nothing can describe the exhilaration you feel when you get an SMS

in the middle of the night to say that we have just won the 52 percent majority

in a voting district where there is not a single minority voter. This is the

stuff of which all successful democracies are made,” she said.

Zille said she was particularly excited by the many young people

who come from all backgrounds and are making the DA their political home.

“They are beginning to emerge everywhere and will soon take their

place in leadership roles throughout our party. Their choice for the DA will

transform our party and our country,” she said.

As Zille delivered her speech, which was peppered with

reconciliatory overtures, the niece of convicted fraudster Shabir Shaik, Seham

Areff, sat quietly behind Zille together with other young people of different

races.

The delegates at the conference, clad in the DA colours, sang

struggle songs similar to those chanted at ANC gatherings while others chanted

“long live the spirit of Hellen Zille”.



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