/ 27 October 2017

A two-horse DA Gauteng duel hots up

Frontrunner: John Moodey
Frontrunner: John Moodey

The two-horse race for the leadership of the Democratic Alliance in Gauteng has begun as the party searches for a leader torepresent its 2019 election ambition of taking control of the province.

The contest is between current DA Gauteng leader John Moodey and the party’s Ekurhuleni mayoral candidate Ghaleb Cachalia.

This week both Moodey and Cachalia started their open campaigning, unveiling digital posters, social media hashtags and receiving open pledges of support from DA members.

So far Moodey has emerged as a clear favourite, pulling the support of prominent party members such as Gauteng MPL Makashule Gana and Western Cape finance MEC Ivan Meyer.

He has also received the backing of newly elected regional leaders. Tshwane’s new regional chair Abel Tau and Vaal chairperson Bongani Baloyi both pledged their support for Moodey this week.

They are likely to bring him the numbers needed to help secure another term at the province’s helm.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian this week, Moodey said support was not something he was worried about and expressed confidence that he was a favourite across the province.

“That’s the thing, my support is across the province. I don’t just have one or two regions where I have support. Across every branch, quite frankly, I have support,” he said.

Moodey has been Gauteng leader of the DA since 2012, previously serving as the party’s provincial chairperson. He led the province during the 2016 municipal election when the DA caused its biggest upset in Gauteng, taking control of the Tshwane and Johannesburg metros as well as the Mogale City municipality. He said his involvement in changing the perception of the DA as a white party and crafting the strategy to reduce the ANC’s support in 2019 would work in his favour.

“It’s something we’ve worked on from as early as 2006. And seeing that strategy and vision come to fruition is why I believe I have what it takes. I’m tried and tested … I’ve delivered on my promises,” he said.

Cachalia is a relative newcomer to the DA. The son of liberation heroes Amina and Yusuf Cachalia, he left the ANC in the run-up to the 2016 municipal elections to join the DA, which chose him as its Ekurhuleni mayoral candidate.

Cachalia believed himself to be the fresh alternative that the DA needed.

“If we continue doing the same thing, in the same way and expecting a different result then I think we are not going to achieve what we hope to achieve [in 2019]. I respect my opponent and I respect my colleagues in the DA, but I honestly believe that I bring a very fresh alternative.”

“My emphasis is a liberal emphasis. It’s an emphasis on freedom of speech, dealing with racism in a productive and inclusive manner. And it’s a focus on the economy … in growing jobs,” he added.

Unlike Moodey, Cachalia seemed less certain about where support for his campaign would come from, but believed he would receive the backing of his constituency in Ekurhuleni. So far he has received the backing of Gauteng MPL and political head in Ekurhuleni, Graham Gersbach.

The DA has now fully entered its congress season, which started in October with the election of Bonginkosi Madikizela as Western Cape leader. Since then Limpopo has also held its conference where it re-elected Jacques Smalle as its leader.

The Gauteng congress, which will be attended by 2 000 delegates, is crucial for the party because it will elect a leader who will have to deliver the most coveted province to the DA’s control.

The DA’s plans to increase support in Gauteng ahead of 2019 involves increasing it volunteer base to no less than 30 000 people, in order to effectively execute door-to-door visits in communities. The party is particularly focused on increasing support and strengthening structures in the province’s townships.

Though Moodey has more than 10 years’ experience in a key leadership position in the party, he was also provincial leader during the period when the DA-led coalition in Mogale City collapsed and councillors were forced to undergo lie-detector tests following suspicions that one of them may have voted with the opposition.

Moodey believed what happened in Mogale City would not harm his campaign, but rather equip him with the necessary experience to form stable coalitions after 2019.

Moodey has repeatedly said he has no interest in becoming premier. He believes being party leader would allow him to influence the political direction of the party.

“A person needs to be able to tell [the party] how do we form coalition governments moving forward and I think that is where my experience gained over the last year and odd months will definitely bear fruit and help us moving forward in coalitions after 2019,” he said.

Cachalia’s odds of taking over as provincial leader were at risk of being compromised by his status as a newcomer, at a point when the party had already started implementing its Change19 strategy, which Moodey was involved in shaping.

“My newness has got enormous positivity. I will partner with people who have got institutional knowledge and together we will drive the agenda forward in the best way possible,” said Cachalia.