No challenge to Zille as DA heads to congress

DA leader Helen Zille will stand unopposed at the party's federal congress.

On Wednesday, the DA revealed the names of the candidates – nominated by members – for its top leadership roles. The party received 18 nominations for the seven positions available.

Eastern Cape leader Athol Trollip, widely seen as a strong candidate for party leader, earlier made it known that he would not be contesting the election.

The party's national spokesperson Mmusi Maimane denied there was anything sinister about Zille being nominated unopposed.

"There wasn't [a process] where people got together and said the leader must not be contested," he said. "There were no candidates who wanted to put themselves forward for the position."

Maimane said any member of the DA in good financial standing could contest the position and added Zille had in the past been challenged for the position by Eastern Cape leader Athol Trollip.

The party declined to comment on the number of members and branches it had around the country, saying that this information was confidential.

Greg Krumbock, convenor of the DA's federal congress, pointed instead to the results of the last national election as proof of the party's growth in recent years. The DA received 24% of the vote last year.

"One in four South Africans now vote for us," he said

The federal congress, which is made up of ordinary members and public representatives from DA branches, is the party's highest decision-making body. Elections are conducted by secret ballot.

James Selfe, chairperson of the party's federal council, and Hendrik Schmidt, who chairs the party's disciplinary body, the federal legal commission, were also nominated unopposed.

Nine members will contest the three positions of deputy federal chairperson up for grabs. These include the party's youthful Gauteng representatives Makashule Gana and Mmusi Maimane and former ID parliamentarian Joe McGluwa.

Meanwhile, Wilmot James, the current federal chairperson, was again nominated for the role. He will face off against the party's "rebel MP" Masizole Mnqasela for the position.

The controversial Mnqasela has done little to endear himself to the party's leadership. Last year he labelled DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko as inexperienced and not black enough to lead the party, supporting Trollip for her position.

He also accused Zille of running the party like a "spaza shop". Zille in turn labelled him "Verwoerdian" and the party charged him with six counts of misconduct over the incident. Mnqasela eventually apologised and the charges were dropped.

The incident, together with allegations that he asked provincial officials to award a tender to a company he was linked to, have tarnished Mnqasela's image.

Krumbock described the election of the three deputy federal chairpersons would be the most interesting part of the election.

"Most of the candidates are new. We have new guys, fresh faces on the block and that's what makes it interesting," he said.

Maimane also touted the diversity of the candidates running for leadership posts at the congress. "This list is representative of a diversity of people, a diversity of representatives from various provinces and, certainly for us, represents an incredible step forward and one that I'm looking forward to in this congress," he said.

In the coming weeks, the nominees will campaign for the posts they are contesting and will also debate each other in a series of road shows, which will be held around the country.

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