/ 30 January 2014

DA focused on gender diversity in Western Cape Cabinet

Helen Zille says her Cabinet must contain the best people for the job.
Helen Zille says her Cabinet must contain the best people for the job.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) list of candidates for the Western Cape provincial legislature – where the party is likely to retain its majority – reveals that Premier Helen Zille will have to tread carefully when she appoints her Cabinet after the elections if she is to avoid a repeat of the row that erupted in 2009.

Zille was heavily criticised by political parties and women's lobby groups when she appointed her 11-person provincial cabinet made up, apart from her, entirely of men, six of them white.

Labour federation Cosatu went as far as laying a complaint with the Equality Court, asking it to order Zille to reconstitute her executive. Cosatu later reached a settlement with the provincial government on the matter.

This was after the DA won a clear majority in the Western Cape, getting 22 seats in the 42-member Western Cape legislature.

At the time Zille said her choices represented "the best fitness-for-purpose match" she could find. She said that all senior DA female candidates opted to stand for election to Parliament rather than the provincial legislature and she was left with a small pool of women.

Skewed representation
Of the 22 members of the provincial legislature in 2009, 15 were white and there were only five women, including Zille.

The top 22 on the list released last week include 13 white people and 10 women. There are only five women in the top 15.

Only Zille and Anroux Marais (at number 15) have legislature experience. The other three women in the top 15 – University of the Western Cape academic Nomafrench Mbombo, community activist Sharna Fernandez and City of Cape Town councillor Benedicta van Minnen – are newcomers.

Zille said there is a strong likelihood that there would be more than one woman in the provincial executive after the elections, although she has not applied her mind to it and can't say for sure.

She said she was, in general, "satisfied" with the people on the lists, who were chosen by the electoral college and selection teams.

Zille said the DA was focused on diversity as a component of excellence and "fitness for purpose".

MP trouble
Controversial DA MP Masizole Mnqasela, who has given Zille a number of headaches over the years, is one of those members who will be eyeing a place in Zille's provincial Cabinet, according to sources.

Mnqasela will not be returning to represent the party in the National Assembly after this year's general elections; his name appears at number 20 on the list for the Western Cape legislature.

The DA would have to perform worse than it did in 2009 for Mnqasela not to secure a seat in the legislature.

Speculation was rife on social networks that Mnqasela had been demoted when his name didn't appear on the party list for Parliament.

According to sources close to Mnqasela, he wants more than just a seat in the legislature. The move is tactical because he thinks it might get him a place in Zille's next Cabinet. He didn't respond directly to a question about him aiming to be in the provincial executive, but confirmed that he didn't apply for a seat in Parliament. He put his name down for the provincial list because "that's where I want to go".

Part of the team
He said, instead of being a backbencher in the National Assembly, he wanted to "be part of this team of great leaders … a team that is showcasing to South Africa and the world what the DA can do to change the lives of the people".

"I want to become part of that experience, showcasing that, where we govern, this is how we do things," he said.

"I have the credentials. I am a leader. I've been through grassroots politics and have recruited many people who are now in leadership positions nationally and provincially. I am also a member of the federal council," he said.

Public spats
Mnqasela's love-hate relationship with Zille has ended in public spats.

They met when Zille was trying to build DA structures in the Xhosa communities around Cape Town more than 10 years ago. Mnqasela became the DA's first Khayelitsha councillor in the city council in 2003 and became an MP in 2009.

When he was charged with rape in June 2010, Zille stood by him. When he was acquitted in July 2011, Zille wrote in her newsletters about their relationship, revealing the abuse they both suffered at the hands of ANC supporters, unfair police treatment and the importance of an independent judiciary.

A few months later, Zille accused Mnqasela of Verwoerdian thinking, likening him to Julius Malema, the then leader of the ANC Youth League. This was after Mnqasela said the election of Lindiwe Mazibuko to the position of parliamentary leadership would be "window dressing" because "she is not black enough"."I want to become part of that experience, showcasing that where we govern, this is how we do things"