Fierce contest for DA positions in Parliament

2016-11-20 00:03
John Steenhuisen

John Steenhuisen

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The DA will hold its midterm caucus elections next Thursday to elect the new management of the party’s caucus in Parliament.

Sixteen positions – the mid-management of the caucus – including chairperson of the caucus, deputy chairperson and deputy chief whip are up for grabs.

The caucus leadership is not up for grabs this time because party leader Mmusi Maimane, as the federal leader, automatically becomes a leader of any caucus that he belongs to.

The chief whip’s position, currently held by John Steenhuisen, will also not be contested, as the DA chief whip is appointed by the party leader.

Currently, the deputy chief whip is Michael Waters, while Anchen Dreyer chairs the caucus, with Richard Majola as her deputy.

Party sources have told City Press about an unprecedented number of candidates who will be contesting the internal positions.

“These elections are highly contested,” said one party member. “There are people who feel there is a deep-rooted centralisation which is no different to Luthuli House. So, the progressives in the party want to challenge that establishment.”

The source said there were tensions, remnants of the internal campaign for party leadership race held in May last year.

Another DA MP said while there is an unprecedented number of people who are standing, the campaigning has not been acrimonious.

The MP, who did want to be named, said people realise that strategic power in the caucus seems to lie in the whippery. “Far more people are standing to ensure the pool of power is expanded and not in a particular cabal,” said the MP.

The positions also mean more money for the MPs and elected candidates become leaders of their cluster.

City Press could not confirm the tally or names of candidates at the time of publishing, as nominations closed on Friday afternoon.

Steenhuisen acknowledged that a number of MPs who were new to Parliament when the Fifth Parliament was convened in May 2014 were now standing for caucus positions.

He didn’t think the contest was “that fierce” but confirmed that there are “a lot of candidates”.

“Here you are dealing with essentially caucus management and whippery positions which are very much part of the management structure of the caucus.

“I think it’s a tribute to a very well-run whippery in the DA caucus. People in increasing numbers want to be part of the team that manages caucus,” he said.

Steenhuisen said it was also not fair to insinuate that there was a Luthuli House-like cabal running the DA.

“We use a single transferable vote system in the party. It is virtually impossible for one group of people to keep another group of people out of office and that is why we use that voting system,” he said.

He explained that the system ensures there is no block voting and one faction cannot dominate it.

The system ranks all candidates and the computer works out the final rating.

“It’s done precisely to prevent factionalism or one faction receiving all the votes in the party,” he said.

The elections are run by a unit within the party.

The last time the DA held a midterm caucus election, a young party spokesperson, Lindiwe Mazibuko, challenged Athol Trollip for the position of parliamentary leader and won after an acrimonious campaign that divided the caucus.

The DA caucus comprises 102 MPs from both houses of Parliament.

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