The other DA race

2015-04-26 15:00

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The race for the DA’s second most senior position is much more fiercely contested than even the top post.

Makashule Gana, Masizole Mnqasela and Athol Trollip want to take over from Wilmot James as the official opposition’s federal chairperson, an official who presides over the federal congress and is responsible for developing and aligning party policies.

James announced earlier this year that he would not stand for re-election to that position and has since announced he will contest the party’s leadership position.

While the three candidates might look and sound different, the message in their campaigns seems to be chosen from the same hymn book.

Opening up the party, making it more accessible and strengthening the leadership is a common thread in their campaign messages.

City Press spoke to Gana and Mnqasela this week and also attended a campaign cocktail evening that was addressed by Trollip in Cape Town on Wednesday night.

“I am standing here and it may not be politically correct for a 51-year-old white man to be a candidate to become the chair of his party, but where I come from, a tree is known by its fruit,” Trollip told an audience of mainly DA MPs.

He announced his candidacy three weeks before outgoing party leader Helen Zille announced her decision to stand down.

Trollip said he had been looking forward to working with Zille in her last three years as a leader.

“I wanted to be part of the transition period in the last three years of Helen Zille’s leadership. I wanted to be there as a safe, steady pair of hands to help us transition from an unbelievable leader who has made a difference in our society,” he said.

He has already been criticised by some in the party for “power-mongering”. Trollip is the provincial leader of the DA in the Eastern Cape and wants to be the federal chair of the DA.

He has accepted the nomination as mayoral candidate for Nelson Mandela Bay and is also leader of the DA caucus in the Eastern Cape legislature.

At 31, Gana is 20 years younger than Trollip, but he also has a long record in the DA. He has served in every structure, with the exception of the women’s network, in the 13 years that he has been a DA member.

Makashule Gana

Gana, who describes himself as “a shy village boy from Lefara”, a village in Tzaneen, promises to be an “activist chairperson”.

He told City Press this week that his campaign for the position was funded by his friend and a number of ordinary activists, some of whom are unemployed.

“There are some activists who are giving R50 to the campaign. They are not working, but are saying: ‘This is not your campaign; this is our campaign. We want an activist chairperson and we want a chairperson who can connect with ordinary members, who can walk with ordinary members.’”

Gana believes the DA also needs to do more on leadership development.

“We are going to win more municipalities, more provinces and, ultimately, the country. We will need a whole lot more leaders.”

He suggested that some in the party were not comfortable with this concept, but added: “If we agree that we are going to win the country, and we agree we do not have enough leaders, then we have a responsibility to attract the leaders we need and in the numbers that we need.”

This will be Mnqasela’s second attempt at getting this position. He stood against James in 2012 and received 30% of the vote. “Now I should be able to get more than 50%,” he said.

Masizole Mnqasela

Mnqasela is known for going against the grain and speaking his mind on internal party issues. He has fallen in and out of favour with Zille on several occasions.

But he insists he was lobbied by his “diverse” constituency.

“I have been consulting with people to ask what I should be doing. They are saying it is time for me to stand. My support is wide. It is in almost every province, even where the other two candidates come from: Gauteng and the Eastern Cape,” he said.

Mnqasela said the main focus of this campaign was to see the DA opening up and being accessible to all structures.

“We should give provinces autonomy. I feel the DA has been diminishing the role of provinces,” he said.

He added that the DA needed to broaden the powers of decision making to more people.

“People should feel free to talk without fear of retribution.”

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