Maimane has upper hand in DA succession race

2015-04-19 17:45
MMusi Maimane (Beeld)

MMusi Maimane (Beeld)

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Johannesburg - Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane used the platform of the Western Cape DA congress to be the first to launch his bid for leadership of the Democratic Alliance, while his likely opponent had to leave the congress because of a family bereavement.

Although he is the favourite to succeed Helen Zille, Maimane must still convince sceptics that he is his own man and not beholden to a select group in the party.

Maimane, who has been DA parliamentary leader since last year, on Saturday received a roaring endorsement from the Western Cape, the party’s largest province and the only province where it governs.

“As you can see [from] the support you got in the Western Cape, we will carry you, Mmusi, we will stand behind you and we will take you to the Union Buildings,” Western Cape chairperson Anton Bredell told Maimane amid loud cheering.

Maimane was also endorsed on Saturday by Eastern Cape DA leader Athol Trollip, who will be running for party federal chairperson against Gauteng deputy federal chairperson Makashule Gana and Western Cape MPL Masizole Mnqasela. Trollip wished Maimane luck on Twitter.

Some have, however, expressed fears that Maimane’s alliance with Trollip would take the party “back to an old boys’ club”.

An MP said there was a perception that Trollip and John Steenhuisen, DA Chief Whip in the National Assembly, were among those pulling the strings in Maimane’s campaign, together with MPs Dean Macpherson, Gavin Davis and Geordin Hill-Lewis.

Critics said these men would “lead Mmusi by the nose” should Maimane be elected.

Trollip, 51, is a seasoned politician who has been in the game for most of his life, while Maimane, 34, only joined the DA’s leadership in 2010.

Maimane, however, said the perception that he was being manipulated by others “is quite frankly undermining to me and undermining to the people of this country. It’s ludicrous to even make that proposal.”

He said he wasn’t aware of “an old boys’ club” in the party and he wasn’t “on a ticket with anybody”.

Although the majority of delegates stood and cheered when he spoke yesterday, some remained seated, clapping politely.

FW de Klerk

A few weeks before announcing his candidacy, Maimane paid a private visit to former president FW de Klerk.

He said that at the time he didn’t know he was going to run as DA leader, but he visited De Klerk as someone he respected.

“I have big respect for him as a person. He is one of those leaders who served South Africa. I don’t necessarily agree with his policies, but it was good for me to spend time with the former president, as I would with any other former president of the republic.

“It was really just a good old drinking of tea, that’s all it was!” Maimane said.

Wilmot James

Wilmot James, also an MP, is expected to announce his candidacy this week. James left Saturday's congress early after learning that his mother had died.

DA MP David Maynier, who supports James’ candidacy, said “it is highly likely that [James] will run. He is taking soundings in the party right now.”

Maimane is considered by many as a shoo-in because he was one of the party’s big faces in the 2014 elections in Gauteng.

His prominence in the tumultuous 2014 Parliament, in which he has competed with EFF leader Julius Malema for attention, has earned him visibility.

His use of the Western Cape congress platform in Goodwood on Saturday to launch his campaign also came into question.

“This was an inappropriate platform. There is already a perception that he has been given an unfair advantage by the party, so it was a grave error of judgement and will cost him. This is supposed to be Patricia [de Lille]’s day,” said a delegate.

Read more on:    da  |  julius malema  |  mmusi maimane  |  patricia de lille  |  wilmot james  |  parliament 2015  |  politics

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