The race for DA federal chairperson

2015-05-05 09:29
DA (Supplied)

DA (Supplied)

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Johannesburg - The stalwart, the activist and the negotiator - these are the three candidates who will be vying for the position of Democratic Alliance federal chairperson at the party's elective congress this weekend in Port Elizabeth.

The position of federal chairperson has been characterised by many as more of a ceremonial job, chairing congress and meetings.

However Athol Trollip, Makashule Gana and Masizole Mnqasela are each looking to add more to the job if elected.

News24 spoke to all three about their campaign for federal chairperson and what they believe their role in the party would be if they won.

The Stalwart - Athol Trollip

DA Eastern Cape leader Athol Trollip, who has been a public representative for 20 years, said he believed the most important thing for any campaign for an internal party leadership position was a person's track record.

"I don't believe that one can get elected in a vacuum in a political party.

"I believe that my track record in this party has been critically important to my success in canvassing for support, because people need to know you by your deeds," he told News24.

Trollip has contested and lost nomination contests before and believes the way he dealt with those losses had been important for his reputation in the party.

"I found that while I've been canvassing people over the last few weeks and months that people have said 'we trust you, you've shown under pressure that you don't let the DA down' hence my campaign slogan says 'tried, tested, trusted'," he said.

Asked if he thinks his experience gives him an advantage over the other two candidates, Trollip said experience did not always get people elected, however in this contest it would more significant.

This was because whoever was elected federal leader - and he was confident Mmusi Maimane would win the race - would have "relatively little experience of leadership" and his own experience would complement them.

Speaking about what he wanted to do if elected, Trollip said he would play a supporting role for the federal leader and as a unifier in the party.

"The role I see for myself... is to be there in a supportive role, one for the leader and that means in all the party campaigns. I will be there in that supporting role, physically campaign with the leader.

"I also see myself playing a uniting or unifying role in the party. Not only post the congress but also as our party grows and [during] political realignment...[which is] going to require quite a considerable balancing act bringing new people into the party and that is where I believe I can play a really important role."

Trollip said he had been successful in introducing people from other political parties into the DA and had experience in uniting a very fractious party in the Eastern Cape.

"I believe I have united our province into becoming the most united and arguably the most successful province in growing the DA.

"I am looking to add more political influence to it [the chairperson job]. I'm not saying that those who went before me didn't do anything - I'm saying I'm actually looking to add more political significance to that role."

The activist - Makashule Gana

Thirty-one-year old Gana, one of the deputy federal chairpersons, says he wants to be an "activist chairperson".

"I'm going to be going around the country... ensuring that proper discussions are happening around policy, even some of the topical issues happening around the country," he said referring to what he would do if he was elected federal chairperson.

"I see the DA as a leader in society... and the chairperson must be at the forefront of that, going around having conversations, not only with DA structures but with civil society... so that at the end of the day the DA is not only seen as a leader of society but it is in fact a leader in society.

"By the time we go to next congress people will see how crucial the job of chairperson is."

Gana wants to focus on policy development in the party and on leadership development.

He said the DA needed to start having real policy discussions at branch and constituency level.

If elected he would establish policy teams in each province.

"I want to use my experience that I've gained in the policy development process of the party, to make sure we enhance it, we expand it to structures... so that we can start having real policy discussions... and not just send an e-mail to branches and say they must comment."

Gana has been running a political school in Johannesburg for three years and wants to expand that to the rest of the country.

He said the DA needed to start grooming people so that when the party is in government it has people who are ready to govern.

"The DA is going to win municipalities and provinces and we do need a lot of leaders... we need a lot more leaders than we currently have.

"I don't see my role only to win votes... I see my role also being able to identify, recruit and develop leaders."

Asked about his campaign for federal chairperson, Gana said it was going well.

He had been calling delegates individually as well as sending SMSes and e-mails to delegates.

"Obviously one is never sure of the numbers until the votes are counted but I'm quite satisfied with indications at this moment. One needs to continue working until the last ballot is cast."

Gana has decided not to endorse any of the candidates standing for federal leader, saying this created the perception of a slate.

He wanted to be elected on his own merit and not because he was aligned to a certain leader.

The negotiator - Masizole Mnqasela

DA MPL Masizole Mnqasela believes his ability to negotiate with other parties during the process of political realignment gives him an advantage in the race for federal chairperson.

"What is nice about my campaign is that it is popular amongst delegates and also it is a campaign that people from outside the party, who have for a very long time wanted to be associated with the DA, are beginning to warm up towards the DA.

"There is that enthusiasm that exists from outside," he told News24.

He said the party needed to continue with the process of political realignment which current leader Helen Zille started in 2006.

Mnqasela said he was a crucial negotiator during that time.

"I had to negotiate with parties like the UDM and the PAC to join our coalition government in 2006 where we installed Helen Zille as the mayor of Cape Town... We had to negotiate a government."

If elected chairperson, Mnqasela intends to break new ground in the party.

"There are two things I expect from congress, a change of heart and a change of mind and if we can achieve just one of the two, that would be the change of heart.

"I want the DA to talk to the soul of our voters and be able to win not only the minds of the people but to win the hearts of the people, that is the strength of my campaign. We ought to go to this congress with the mindset that we are no longer a party of opposition. In fact, we are a party of government and we are going to use 2016 as a stepping stone and I will be part of that leadership that will cross that trajectory."

Mnqasela said his aim as chairperson was to negotiate governments in the metros.

"Nationally, the only way to grow is that we have to win municipalities next year and be able to govern... in the metros.

"So what I intend doing when I win is to negotiate governments in the metros where we will need to work with other parties. I will use my experience which I gained over the years but also use my relationship with other parties."

He said a leader needed people skills, which could not be taught.

Mnqasela also wants to focus on policy.

There needed to be discussions within the party on Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment, employment equity and land reform and restitution.

"Our economic policy must be able to address the issue of redress, we must be emphatic on that matter... must be able to address the real issues without selling our souls and our values.

"If we are to win the hearts of the majority of our people, they must not only hear us talk about an inclusive economy, an inclusive party, they must see that through the leadership that we elect. They must see that this party is for everybody," he said.

Read more on:    da  |  masizole mnqasela  |  makashule gana  |  athol trollip  |  politics

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