The DA's dilemma: No crisis of colour, it's about leadership, says Zille as battle for top job hots up

Helen Zille. (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)
Helen Zille. (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

The problem in the DA was one of leadership, not race, and the party had to get that right, newly elected federal council chairperson Helen Zille told the Cape Town Press Club on Thursday. This before three names emerged for the party's next interim federal leader.

"It's not an easy thing to fix," she said.

Zille believed the resignations of Mmusi Maimane as federal leader, Athol Trollip as federal chairperson and Herman Mashaba as Johannesburg mayor had not caused a crisis in the party.

Rather, she said, their resignations had followed a process of identifying and analysing the problems the party were facing, which culminated in a review report by Ryan Coetzee, Tony Leon and Michiel le Roux.

"The loss across the board in by-elections was a symptom of our problems, not a cause, and the critical conclusion was that the current leadership was not capable of leading the DA out of this crisis."

"... good leadership is more important than the colour of leadership"

Zille said it was an unbelievably bold move by Maimane and the party to take the principle of accountability seriously, adding Maimane was "unbelievably courageous" in calling for the analysis and for taking the report to federal council instead of sweeping it under the rug.

Zille admitted she was taken by surprise at the resignations, as had "nine-tenths" of the federal executive.

"We asked them not to, we asked them to rethink it. They said no, they wanted to go. I said right, we can do nothing about that."

READ: 'Definitely not' - Helen Zille says she has no ambition of being DA leader again

Zille said the DA's particular governing structures in Gauteng were extremely vulnerable, but she did not think it should be co-governing with the ANC or EFF.

"We have taken a knock, I don't want to be full of bravado but our polls have nicely stabilised this past week and it has not been nearly anything like a setback which people have claimed it to be.

"Yes, it will take us time to recover but we will recover and we have a chance of recovering now… If there is anything we have learned, good leadership is more important than the colour of leadership."

On Thursday, Western Cape DA leader Bonginkosi Madikizela, parliamentary leader John Steenhuisen and chairperson of the provincial legislatures network Makashule Gana threw their hats in the ring.

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