The DA’s surprise election lists have elicited grumbles among the party’s more conservative elements — and even threats by some members to move to other parties.
But DA leader Helen Zille and other senior party figures have dismissed threats of a split.
The lists, released last weekend, were widely hailed as a reflection of Zille’s vision for the party.
But some Pretoria members are threatening to hive off because they have been usurped on the lists by people who are not ”professional politicians”.
The DA’s biggest coup has been Wilmot James, a former dean of the University of Cape Town and former head of the Immigration Advisory Board of South Africa. James also headed the Institute for Democracy in South Africa some years ago.
Also included are DA spokesperson Lindiwe Mazibuko, prominent radio personality Niekie van der Berg, former Agriculture South Africa boss Lourie Bosman and Makhosazana Mdlalose, daughter of Inkatha Freedom Party founding member Frank Mdlalose.
Zille, who has made it her mission to draw outside professionals on to the DA lists, agreed that several members ”are saying they will now see if they can get a position with Cope or the ANC”. However, she insisted this showed they had no idea of what the DA stands for.
”If they did, they could not simply go and stand for a party that represents a completely different value set,” she said.
She was also unconcerned about the party splitting. ”Some people get irritated about their positions on the list and I was surprised by the relatively low position of some very good MPs. But they will still get elected.”
She conceded that a weakness of the DA’s current list process was that ”it does not weigh past contributions sufficiently”.
The lists send a strong signal that party stalwarts and the old guard are not automatically guaranteed pole position. Zille said a ”closed, crony system” would not be allowed to hold the party hostage.
”Traditionally party lists have been the preserve of a small insider clique who look after one another and their political allies. I wanted to open the process to competition and draw in a diverse range of newcomers who could add value.
”We must try to live our slogan: ‘one nation, one future”’, drawing support from all communities.”
The lists, both provincial and national, show that the DA’s days as a mainly white English-speaking party are over. Black candidates are well represented and many are highly placed.
The DA expects to win the Western Cape election, but Zille would not say whether she intends to stay on as mayor of Cape Town, to move into the premier’s office or become leader of the opposition in Parliament.
Party insiders say she favours James to lead the party in the National Assembly while she becomes premier and Dan Plato, currently mayoral committee member for housing, moves into the mayor’s office.