With only a few weeks left before the KwaZulu-Natal DA’s crucial elective conference, the contest for the party’s provincial leader position has turned into a three-horse race pitting the organisation’s KZN chief whip, eThekwini caucus leader and her deputy.
While the DA’s KZN chief whip, Francois Rodgers declined to confirm whether he would be contesting for the top position, the party’s eThekwini Caucus leader, Nicole Graham and her deputy Emmanuel Mhlongo confirmed that they were considering throwing their names in the hat.
“It is something I’m seriously considering,” Graham said.
However, Graham said she was keeping her options open, and as such, was not pinning all her hopes on the provincial leader position. “Building teams and capacity to service communities is something close to my heart, I will definitely contest for something,” she said.
A politics and law graduate who hails from the Bluff, Graham has been a DA councillor since 2011.
The race for the DA provincial top position has been left wide open following the incumbent, Zwakele Mncwango’s decision not to run.
Mhlongo, who will slug it out with Graham and Rodgers, said he was looking forward to the top leadership contest. “I have been incredibly encouraged by the many messages from hard-working public representatives and activists to stand for KZN leader,” he said.
The DA eThekwini deputy caucus leader, who hails from Bulwer, is however not new to the top leadership contest after having unsuccessfully challenged Mncwango in the 2018 provincial congress.
While Mhlongo lost with a huge margin at that election, he has blamed “insufficient” campaign time for his loss. “I have since been in constant contact with the multitudes of DA members across the province and I remain inspired by the amount of encouragement I continue to get,” he said.
Mncwango, who is currently at the end of his second term as DA provincial leader, on Wednesday confirmed to The Witness that he would not be available for re-election. “After serving two terms I think it’s wise for one to look at other areas where one could make a contribution,” he said.
Sources within the DA told The Witness that Mncwango has since thrown his weight behind Rodgers.
“It is an open secret within the DA that he wants Rodgers to succeed him,” the source said.
However, Mncwango denied endorsing Rodgers. “I don’t even know who the candidates are. It is the first time I’m hearing about the names which you have just mentioned to me,” he said.
While Mncwango is widely believed to have a frosty relationship with the current DA national leadership, he said the decision not to contest was made a long time ago. “When I was elected the DA provincial leader for the first time in 2015, it was never my intention to stay as leader forever.
“I’m one of those people who don’t subscribe to the view that in order for one to make an impact, whether within the party or society at large, one has to be in a leadership position,” he said.
While Rodgers denied to comment, sources close to the DA provincial chief whip said he would contest for the top position.
“He has been a deputy provincial leader and now he is the provincial chairperson. Being elected provincial leader is obviously the next step,” a source said.
The DA provincial congress will take place at the end of March.