DA chafes about leader who won't go

Several DA members are unhappy that outgoing Western Cape party leader Theuns Botha. (David Harrison, M&G)

Several DA members are unhappy that outgoing Western Cape party leader Theuns Botha. (David Harrison, M&G)

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will elect a new Western Cape party leader at its conference next month.

Ivan Meyer, the MEC for sports, arts and culture in the province, will stand unopposed to take over the position when the party meets to elect new leaders on October 13.

But Botha, who announced earlier this year that he would not be standing for re-election, will contest the position of deputy provincial leader, a new post in the party structure. Former Cape Town mayor Dan Plato will also be standing for it.

Several DA members are unhappy about Botha's intentions, which they say shows he is not ready to relinquish power.

It remains to be seen whether Independent Democrats (ID) leader and mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, will stand for an elected position in the DA. This week she told the Mail & Guardian that she would not be running for a position in the provincial leadership and "I haven't decided what to do with the national leadership elections yet".

According to an agreement signed in 2010, ID members who are public representatives in local government became DA members after the 2011 local government elections and those in provincial and national legislatures will become DA members after the 2014 elections.

Step down
Botha issued a press statement announcing his intention to step down as provincial leader in May.

In it, he wrote: "I took over as provincial leader when the party experienced great difficulty and successfully led the party through the past 11 years to great victories in the Western Cape."

No one had put pressure on him to give up the leadership of the party in the province, he said, adding that "a good leader knows when to step down".

He said he would avail himself for other leadership positions in the party.
"With my knowledge and experience, I will be able to assist and guide the new leader."

But DA members who spoke on condition of anonymity questioned his motives.

"I guess he still wants to remain a key figure behind closed doors. If he is stepping down as a leader, why does he still hang on as deputy leader? It's clear that, if he wins, he will be a co-leader," one said.

"Meyer is a novice in party leadership and is rumoured to be Botha's protégé, so it will be Botha's show without the official title of leader," another said.

No rules
"He wants to be a coach," another said. "It's not clear, however, whether Meyer asked to be coached or not. But where have you heard of a coach in politics?"

This week, Meyer said the DA's plan was to increase its voter base significantly from the current 51% to 60%. The DA won the Western Cape with an outright majority of 51.5% in the 2009 general elections.

He said they would do this by targeting the youth and black and ANC wards.

Although there were no rules that said the DA provincial leaders would be the sole candidates for the premiership during the elections, generally they were the frontrunners, he said.

Asked whether he would stand in 2014, Meyer said he had no ambitions to become a premier.

"My personal wish is for the current premier to continue. She is doing a good job in turning the Western Cape around. It takes at least two terms to turn things around. The first term was to stabilise the province."

Botha denied that he wanted to hold on to power and control Meyer. He said he just wanted to support him. "I'm proud of him. I recruited him to the party about four or five years ago because I saw potential in him to lead the party. I also played a pivotal role in his candidature."

Too big
He said that, under normal circumstances, deputy leaders were controversial because they aspired to become leaders.

Meyer would need help because the DA was "too big" in the Western Cape, Botha said. "We have over 500 public representatives, close to 400 branches, 23 governments that we are in charge of, including the city of Cape Town, and the provincial government."

He added that, although the DA embraced diversity and unity, Meyer's appointment was not token.

Meanwhile, DA leader Helen Zille has said the party could merge with other parties to contest the 2014 general elections, because none of the existing parties could offer a credible, sustainable way of overcoming the socioeconomic legacy of apartheid on their own.

On Thursday, Zille told the Cape Town Press Club that the key question South Africa faced was how to prevent the disintegration of the ruling party from becoming a disaster for the country.

"Any party that aspires to govern South Africa must, at the very least, be trusted by people from different backgrounds and offer a credible, sustainable way of overcoming the socioeconomic legacy of apartheid.

"That is an entry-level requirement. Any party that cannot make such an offer has no prospect of governing South Africa successfully."

Zille said none of the existing political parties, as currently constituted, could credibly offer this on its own. She said the risk of leaving comfort zones, as De Lille had demonstrated, paled into insignificance compared with the alternative.

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