Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille will not be the star of the show at next month’s national congress of the Democratic Alliance.
Earlier this year the DA expressed confidence that De Lille would not only attend the party congress, scheduled for July 24 in Cape Town, but also be elected to the party’s second most senior leadership position.
Talks between the DA and the ID started shortly after the 2009 elections in which the ID performed worse than expected and the DA won the Western Cape.
At the time, the DA entered into talks with the Congress of the People (Cope) as well, but these came to nought because of Cope’s intense leadership battles. The idea was that the three parties would work together in campaigning for the local government elections countrywide and so lay foundations for cooperation at the next national poll, in 2014.
But it then became clear that the plan might be better served if the ID merged fully with the DA. To this end it was mooted that the ID shut down and De Lille become a member of the DA — bringing with her the important Western Cape coloured constituency as well as some support that she still holds at municipal level.
She would then be elected DA federal chairperson and so become the party’s second-in-charge under DA leader Helen Zille, who is also the Western Cape premier.
As part of this rapprochement, Zille took the ID’s Sakkie Jenner, a member of the Western Cape legislature, into her cabinet. But the plan ran into trouble when it took longer than expected for the ID to close shop and unhappiness in both parties about the idea emerged.
This week, the current federal chairperson, James Selfe, said that De Lille has not been nominated by the DA structures for any position. She confirmed this, quoting a technical matter as the reason. “I can’t be nominated: the rules are clear that [parliamentary] political parties cannot merge because there is no floor-crossing legislation,” she said.
Currently on a tour to report back to ID members, De Lille said the ID has decided that her party would allow ID members to hold dual membership with the DA. This would allow ID leaders to take up DA seats eventually in the national and provincial parliaments.
If she takes a position in the DA, she will forfeit her parliamentary seat as party leader — and that salary.
Insiders say people in both the DA and the ID are unhappy at the idea of the ID being swallowed by the DA.
“You know, the DA is also divided on this issue and there are some people who are unhappy that [De Lille] gets such an important position while they are waiting in line,” an insider said.
It has been reliably learned that three candidates have been nominated for the position of federal chairperson: former federal chairperson Joe Seremane, the party’s spokesperson on higher education, Wilmot James, and former Gauteng leader John Moodey. Nominations close on Friday July 2.