DA strategist takes top UK job

2012-09-07 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Ryan Coetzee, the DA’s foremost strategist, may soon swop Cape Town for London to take up a position as a special adviser to British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Coetzee is special adviser to Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille in her capacity as Western Cape premier, where he is deeply involved in defining and implementing the model of strict governance for which the province has become renowned.

The British job offer was made to Coetzee and he has accepted, but the visa application process has not yet been finalised.

Because a special adviser position is dependent on the political power relations of the moment, the move to Britain might well be temporary.

A special adviser is an appointment within the civil service for which the period of service runs concurrently with the term of office in government of the politician being advised (Clegg, in this instance).

Clegg is leader of the Liberal Democrats in Britain, and serves as deputy prime minister in the coalition government headed by Prime Minister David Cameron, a Tory. The Liberal Democrats are the DA’s sister party in Britain, and the two parties regularly exchange views and expertise.

Through this continous contact, the Liberal Democrats have for years been aware of the content and standard of Coetzee’s South African work.

Earlier this year, Clegg and Coetzee discussed the challenges and opportunities of the Liberal Democrats’ dual position as minority partner in coalition with a political opponent.

Shortly afterwards, Coetzee was asked to consider a position as special adviser to Clegg. Zille was kept informed throughout.

When The Witness contacted Coetzee yesterday, he confirmed the planned move. “I remain entirely commited to the DA’s ideals for South Africa, and I will be back. I am quite sure experience working for a national coalition government will soon be very useful in South Africa,” he quipped.

Zille said Coetzee’s inputs would be missed. She lauded his massive contributions so far, and expressed the belief he would play an important role somewhere in the future.

Coetzee is widely acknowledged as the mastermind behind the Democratic Party and later the DA’s political campaigns since 1999. He played a major role in growing the party’s support from 1,7% to the national figure of 16,7% in Parliament and 24% at local government level. He was also key to the successful negotiations setting up the seven-party coalition that unseated the ANC in Cape Town in 2006.

His high-profile, straight-talking, unyielding insistence on liberal principle and role as the driving force of the DA’s successful growth strategy made him a controversial figure and a target for political opponents, particularly the ANC.

He became a member of Parliament in 2004. In 2009, Athol Trollip beat him in the DA parliamentary leadership race, after which Coetzee became Zille’s special adviser.

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