Cape Town – Without addressing the recent discord in the Western Cape DA directly, the party’s leader, Mmusi Maimane, on Saturday issued a stern warning to delegates at the DA's Western Cape conference to guard against racial divisions, patronage and complacency.
Maimane's speech was delayed as the venue, the Every Nation Church in Goodwood in Cape Town's Northern Suburbs, adjacent to a Builders Warehouse, experienced a power outage.
With the power restored, the master of ceremonies called Maimane to the podium in the style of a ringside announcer at a boxing match, "From Dobsonville, Soweto… Mmmmmusi Maaaaaimaaane!"
This was received with rapturous applause.
"Let it never be said that we don't live in interesting times. We are a nation going through the process of change and rebirth," Maimane said.
"Our actions in government here in the Western Cape as well as where we hope to soon be in government, are shaping this history as we speak."
Maimane said everything the DA does, must set it apart from the ANC.
"There must be vast, clear blue water between our respective policy offers and between our respective conducts," he said.
He referred to the ANC Eastern Cape's violent conference last weekend.
"But let me warn you here: That level of factional violence doesn't just happen overnight. It builds and builds in an organisation if left unchecked.
"It quickly becomes the culture of an organisation if there is not a disciplined focus on a common goal," he said.
'You're in the wrong party!'
He dedicated his speech to what the DA is not.
"We are not a party that mobilises and consolidates around race. If you're running for a position of leadership, and your message – whether overtly or between the lines – is that you represent a certain race or group, then you’re in the wrong party!" he said.
"Another thing the DA never has been and never will be is a party of patronage. Anyone who has ambitions to attain power in order to dispense jobs, favours and opportunities must do so in another party!"
He said the DA is not a party of egos and warned against cults of personality. At that stage, some delegates started chanting "Mmusi! Mmusi! Mmusi!"
Maimane urged the delegates to value each and every supporter and voter.
"It cannot be that we allow a tiny party like the PAC to make a by-election comeback against us in a ward right here in Cape Town. It cannot be that we lose a ward in Berg River to the ANC," Maimane said.
"All this tells me is that we are getting complacent, and that can never happen."
"Fellow democrats, complacency is your biggest enemy right now."
Maimane called on delegates to leave the conference unified after the election of the new provincial leadership, which proceeded after Maimane's speech.
Most of the candidates at the congress were dressed in a T-shirt showing support to a candidate running for the several positions in the party's provincial leadership.
Many people had T-shirts proclaiming support for current acting provincial leader, Bonginkosi Madikizela, who has been embroiled in a scandal about a provincial contractor paying for his birthday cake, and for Lennit Max, having his fourth go at the provincial leadership.
Max was the chairperson of the Western Cape legislature's conduct committee investigating Madikizela, but resigned from that position.
In recent weeks Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille, a former provincial leader, and councillor JP Smith were put on "special leave" from DA party activities following a spat about De Lille's disbandment of the city's special investigations unit, with allegations of impropriety with the security upgrades at De Lille's Pinelands residence.
Former party leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille is also not at the congress, after being suspended from party activities following her tweets about colonialism.