DA elects deputy chairpersons

The race for three posts as federal deputy chairperson within the Democratic Alliance has been won by Anchen Dreyer, Dianne Kohler Barnard and Ivan Meyer, at the DA congress on Sunday.

The announcements came amid questions from DA members about the party’s leadership structures, particularly the roles of the federal chairperson, which went unopposed to Wilmot James, and that of his deputies. James replaces outgoing chairperson Joe Seremane.

A number of constitutional amendments on the matter were proposed by Masizole Mnqasela on behalf of the N2 Development Constituency, but were not recommended to the congress by the party’s constitutional review committee.

They included the proposal that the three deputy chairpersons be given clear roles and responsibilities. Mnqasela said at present the roles were merely ceremonial ones.

‘All these [proposals] emanate from constituency discussions,” he said when asked about the proposed amendments.

Other proposed amendments included collapsing the role of federal chairperson and federal council chairperson and that this position be filled through an election by the congress.

Mnqasela argued that while the federal council chairperson had a clear role within the organsation’s executive, the federal chairperson’s position, like that of the deputies, was purely ornamental.

Nine candidates had battled it out for the three positions of deputy chairperson, which Mnqasela said had created too much contestation in the party.

Debbie Schafer, MP and chairperson of the constitutional review committee, said however that the role of federal chairperson created diversity of leadership within the party. The position allowed the incumbent to be part of any structure within the party, and to be as active they chose.

The role could not be conflated with that of the federal council chairperson, because, like every structure within the DA, the executive body had a right to elect their own chairperson. She said the position required a great deal of managerial skill, an understanding of diplomacy and high level of expertise. If the position was open to a vote at congress it would simply descend into a “popularity contest” said Schafer.

Amendments regarding the roles of deputy chairpersons were not recommended because the committee felt that this was a managerial function, and did not need to be constitutionalised, said Schafer. However a process was under way to provide the deputy chairpersons with clear functions and duties, according to Shafer.

Further recommendations included the introduction of a deputy leader for the party. Mnqasela said the feeling among members was that the party required a second layer of leadership, particularly as the party was growing exponentially.

Shafer said however the committee had been reluctant to propose this idea because a deputy leader had been tried before and “was a recipe for deepening conflict”.

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