It is the final stretch and the candidates for the Democratic Alliance leadership positions are busy calling, visiting and working to convince delegates that they are the right people to take the party to the next level.
With only three days left to campaign and over a 1 000 delegates expected to attend the party¹s national congress in Port Elizabeth this weekend, the candidates for the leadership post and the federal chair position are on a high, and each expects to come out the victor. So confident of winning is DA Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane that he plans to embark on a province to province tour as soon as he is named as Helen Zille¹s successor.
Maimane said he wanted to share his vision for the party with the rest of the country. The MP said that by Friday he would have visited all nine provinces as part of his campaign and he was feeling quite strong.
“The focus now is making sure that delegates show up and vote. We have just completed a callathon and there will be another opportunity to convince delegates on Friday night when they arrive in Port Elizabeth for the congress.”
With a slogan “Believe in Tomorrow”, and a strong social media presence since he announced his candidacy, Maimane said they were using every opportunity and tool at their disposal to make sure he came out victorious on Sunday.
Addressing the recent sex scandal allegations against him and his camp, Maimane said he was eager to get to the bottom of the issue as they couldn’t have people who were intent on causing disrepute within the party. So far, delegates from the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng have publicly pledged their support to Maimane. While all parties have vowed to run clean campaigns, the past week has not been all roses.
Maimane’s opponent, Wilmot James, in an interview with The Star newspaper, said the Parliamentary leader was just offering another version of the ANC.
“I have consulted widely and I believe I have strong support. Yes, it’s a stretch and a difficult target to reach, but I am competitive. I have been consulting and I believe I have good support,” he was quoted as saying. This prompted Maimane’s campaign manager Geordin Hill-Lewis to reply, in a statement on Politicsweb, to challenge the claims.
“So let’s unpack James’ own record when it comes to offering an alternative to the ANC. In 2010, one year into his first term as a DA MP, James told an interviewer that he would vote for the ANC if Trevor Manuel were its President: ‘If it wasn’t for the ANC’s insistence to have an African person as a leader, he would be president. I would vote for him. He would be great,’ James said. Indeed, James worked closely with the ANC throughout the 1990s and would later describe himself in an interview as an ANC sympathiser during those years.
“James has an interesting history of political involvement. He was peripherally involved in the Black Consciousness Movement for a couple of years in the 1970s, the United Democratic Front in the 1980s and an ANC sympathiser in the 1990s. He was never a member of the Democratic Party, or any of its predecessor parties, and only joined the DA in August 2008 – a few months before he became a MP. Perhaps this is why James’ claim to be a ‘liberal stalwart’ ring rather hollow,” said Hill-Lewis in the statement.
Running for federal chair post are Eastern Cape caucus leader Athol Trollip, MP and current deputy federal chair Makashule Gana and Masizole Mnqasela. Trollip said they have been canvassing hard and he was happy with the results so far. “The campaign is going extraordinarily well. We’ve been canvassing all the delegates and have gotten all our canvass sheets back and I believe I am going to win convincingly.
“This week I’m going to be phoning people that are doubtful, who we are not sure whether they support me or possibly another candidate so we will try to convince them by me phoning them personally. I have sent out an emailer today, which basically shows my track record, because in this province we have shown growth across communities and the Fort Hare victory was a classic example of our growth.”
Trollip who believes his experience gives him a leg up in the race, said while he was confident of his victory, he would support any other leader if they won over him as he had done when he had lost to Helen Zille and Lindiwe Mazibuko.
MP Gana said he had done everything he could in campaigning and it was now up to the delegates. “I’ve been campaigning for weeks, contacting delegates and I believe the possibilities are there that I will make it. I have run a clean campaign and there is nothing I would change. I am confident due to the support I have been getting and if I don’t win, I will just be an ordinary MP as I do not believe in running for two positions at the same time.”
He said he was not specifically focusing his campaign on provinces as people were going to vote as individuals at the conference.
“So we are looking at support across the country.”
Mnqasela’s focus is the same. He said he has been contacting delegates as individuals as he did not want block voting and his support was not regional or provincial.
“So far, the campaign has been exhilarating and stupendous. This week, I am criss-crossing all over the Western Cape canvassing delegates before they go to PE, sms’ing others. I want to package a message that will ensure that all provinces can count on me as a leader during door to door campaigns that I will go with them to all the places we still need to reach.”
He said he wanted to make the position of federal chair, which he sees as ceremonial, to a more active role within the party. The two day programme will include discussions on constitutional amendments, fairness resolutions, finance and local government reports as well as the voting for the new leadership positions.