Push for a ‘succession plan’ in DA

Khume Ramulifho (right) says the DA shouldn’t be a one-man show led by Mmusi Maimane (centre) but the proposal for a deputy federal leader has been rejected. (Jabu Kumalo/Gallo Images)

Khume Ramulifho (right) says the DA shouldn’t be a one-man show led by Mmusi Maimane (centre) but the proposal for a deputy federal leader has been rejected. (Jabu Kumalo/Gallo Images)

As the Democratic Alliance’s federal council chairperson James Selfe faces a push for him to serve his final term in office, Gauteng member of the provincial legislature (MPL) Khume Ramulifho is being positioned to take over by those who want more young black people in the party’s national leadership.

Ramulifho has been nominated for the position of deputy federal council chairperson. The DA’s national congress will be held in Tshwane in April and Ramulifho will be running against the current incumbent, Thomas Walters, as well as MPs Haniff Hoosen and Natasha Mazzone. If Ramulifho is elected, he will be the first black DA member to form part of the council leadership.

“We don’t have any black person who is in the federal council [leadership]. It’s not to make it about colour … but also we can’t say black people have not been given the opportunity when they have not raised their hand [before],” Ramulifho said.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday, the former DA youth leader explained that his bid to work alongside Selfe was not only to contribute to a crucial office in the party but also to ensure that a new generation of leaders was equipped to run the office once Selfe vacated it.

“Considering that James won’t be there for life we need to have a skills transfer. For me it’s part of succession planning and, for the party to grow, we need to ensure that we have proper succession planning,” he said.

“I am prepared to go and learn and I think I’ve got a deep understanding of the party’s processes and constitution, and I’ve made lots of contributions at federal council.”

Some members of the party have expressed unhappiness about Selfe’s 18-year occupation of the position, with rumblings of a call for him to step down.

But this week Selfe was nominated uncontested for re-election to the position — understood to be part of the DA’s plan of ensuring stability ahead of the 2019 national elections.

There will, however, probably be a push at the DA’s 2021 congress for Selfe to make way for new leaders. Party insiders told the M&G that Ramulifho might have his eye on succeeding Selfe once this happens. But Ramulifho denied the claim, saying his only focus was on doing work in the office of the council that would be meaningful for the DA’s development.

“For now I want to get to the position and do my best and get judged on the work I do there. And if time allows, we’ll see how far things go. But for now I’m just focused on the work.”

Ramulifho believes he has the support of at least 70 of the 155 federal council members. Another 20 members have allegedly agreed to give him the position of second deputy council chairperson if the party adopts a proposal at congress to introduce such a position.

“Some people are happy that I am contesting, because they say: ‘We are happy that you have courage, you are not only doing things to maintain the status quo’,” Ramulifho said.

He echoed a call made by fellow leadership hopeful, Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga, for the DA not to be a one-man show anchored by party leader Mmusi Maimane.

Instead, Ramulifho and Msimanga believe all leaders on the party’s national structure should be equally visible in the DA’s identity and campaigns.

Ramulifho has taken this call a step further by leading a push for the introduction of a deputy federal leader, a proposal that has already been shot down by the DA’s constitutional review committee.

Those who oppose the proposal say it threatens to create two centres of power in the party. But Ramulifho and others, such as Gauteng MPL Makashule Gana, say this will not happen.

The proposal has not been included on the official list of matters to be tabled at the congress but Ramulifho said he will push to have it debated.

“This is a party that is not just run around one person. Whether Mmusi is there or not the DA should be able to function. So we are going to debate that matter [for a deputy federal leader] and I hope we will win that issue,” he said.

Another of his proposals is that the DA adopts a system similar to that of the ANC where a policy conference is held separately from the federal congress.

With the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as South Africa’s president, Ramulifho believes the DA will have to change its tack ahead of the 2019 elections by articulating its policy positions instead of playing reactionary personality politics.

“The change of plan will be required,” he said. “You can no longer go to Parliament and talk about one person [former president Jacob Zuma]. That game is over. We are at the point where we need to talk about real issues now.”

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