DA malcontents bidding to challenge Helen Zille

2012-03-16 00:00

THE Democratic Alliance’s iron woman, Helen Zille, is bracing herself against a group in the party who want her removed as leader.

The group has been quietly lobbying some DA members to try and unseat her as party leader in November, or at least to remove her confidantes from positions of power.

The early battlefield will be a series of provincial DA congresses, with the final battle in November at the party’s national congress in Soweto, where a new national leadership team has to be elected.

The plan is to nominate candidates in opposition to national chairperson Wilmot James and federal executive chair James Selfe, two of Zille’s closest confidantes.

If the malcontents see that Zille is vulnerable they will also turns their sights on her. A decision will be taken later, Beeld was told.

Some malcontents acknowledge that Zille is the face of the party and perhaps impossible to defeat, but they believe she could be white-anted if her confidantes are voted out.

It’s her strong leadership style and frankness that upset some DA members.

In other provinces it is said that the Western Cape has too much power, even though nine of the 30 federal executive members are from Gauteng, compared with six from the Western Cape, five from KwaZulu-Natal and three from North-West, for example.

A third criticism of Zille and the national core leadership is that many of the leaders do not occupy key posts and that many of their supporters emphasise racial, linguistic, religious and gender preferences.

This criticism is not shared by all the malcontents, but could be used against the liberal Selfe and James in particular.

Fourthly, some MPs who supported Athol Trollip’s candidacy as parliamentary leader last year are organising against the present leaders. Zille said it is internal election season in the DA, and nominations for key positions are to be expected.

“I don’t know which people may be nominated for which posts, but we do not believe in coronations, just in internal democracy,” she said. “Choice is always welcome. A good spirit too — the DA’s growth must not be dampened by ANC-type infighting.”

Three of the names being mentioned for the three top posts are Trollip, former chief whip Ian ­Davidson and Midrand MP Dion George.

George said there were discussions about a succession battle, but they hadn’t been very comprehensive.

“One would have to assess the climate in order to see whether personalities should change. We’re a democratic party.”

Trollip said he was openly dissatisfied about Zille’s role in the parliamentary leadership battle, but he believes she must lead the DA in the 2014 elections.

He said that while elections in the other top positions were welcome, he was not available.

Davidson said he was aware of muttering about leadership, but was not available for any posts.

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