Voters are fair and know who to blame - Selfe on DA's challenges

2018-03-12 18:25
DA federal council chairperson James Selfe is running to retain his position. (Paul Herman/News24)

DA federal council chairperson James Selfe is running to retain his position. (Paul Herman/News24)

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Cape Town - DA federal council chairperson James Selfe believes the party's recent challenges in the Western Cape won't necessarily sway citizens in the 2019 elections, as voters are fair and know where to lay blame.

The Democratic Alliance will host its federal congress next month. Selfe is running again for federal council chairperson - a post he has held for 18 years.

He told News24 this week that the party's recent challenges in the City of Cape Town, such as the water crisis and the impasse with Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille, were not insurmountable.

The water crisis, for instance, could have been avoided if the national government carried out its responsibility to provide adequate bulk water supply in the Western Cape, his party contended.

READ: DA 'perfectly prepared to go into opposition' - Selfe on EFF metro threats

"Once the Capetonian population understood what was causing the water problem, what the City was doing to augment supply and what their responsibility was, they became enthused and committed.

"When one explains to citizens about what local and provincial governments have done to avert the crisis, those people are inclined to lay the blame where it should be, the Department of Water and Sanitation led by the ANC.

"Voters are fair people. Once they understand where blame should be laid, they lay the blame there."

When asked about criticism that the DA was late to the party in commissioning desalination plants, Selfe said desalination was not a magic bullet and was very costly.

A week was a long time in politics. Residents and local officials in any case have worked together to push back Day Zero - the day when taps will be switched off in the city, he said.

The new leadership elected would go back to basics, following a rocky year that also saw Western Cape Premier Helen Zille suspended from party activities.

Their biggest challenge was not their message, but other people distorting their message.

'We have a good case against De Lille'

Another key issue that has damaged the party in the Cape Town Metro over the last few months has been De Lille's future.

De Lille survived a motion of no confidence in the City council last month, despite the DA's directive for councillors to support the motion.

Selfe said the party understands the uncertainty it has created, but was confident they could arrest the political fractures in their "jewel in the crown".

"This is a great city, that's well administered, by efficient City officials, and we are working day and night in restoring the political management of those officials.

"We want to restore the City of Cape Town to the levels it was a few years ago."

As for De Lille's future, the party will decide once disciplinary proceedings, which were postponed from this week to two weeks' time, commence.

"We have a very good case against her, and the prosecution is being led by [legal commission chairperson] Glynnis Breytenbach, and we are confident the disciplinary will find against her," he said.

When asked what would happen in the event that De Lille was cleared of the charges against her, he said: "Let's not plan for every contingency except success."

Distinction between party and government

Both the DA's current government heads, De Lille and Zille, have fallen out with the party in the last year.

When asked if voters should be confident in the party's candidates, given that track record, Selfe remained steadfast.

"They are both very competent administrators, even if their activities have caused offence," he said.

"Helen Zille, for example, has done fantastic work in running the Western Cape, but her tweets continue to be problematic.

"For that reason, voters need to draw a distinction between the management of a government and the leadership of a political party. They're two different things."

The party will start the process of nominating premier candidates for the Western Cape after its congress in April, he confirmed.

The DA's federal congress will take place on April 6 and 7 and nominations close this Friday.

The party will elect a new leader, a federal chairperson and a deputy.

It will also elect chairpersons of its federal council and its finances, and a new 155-member federal council.

Read more on:    patricia de lille  |  james selfe  |  helen zille

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