The Democratic Alliance’s Western Cape leader, Bonginkosi Madikizela, has hit back at his critics in the DA, who believe he is unfit to be a premier candidate because of governance crises in municipalities.
DA insiders said a grouping aligned to Premier Helen Zille is pushing for economic opportunities MEC Alan Winde to become the next premier.
Though Winde and Madikizela are known to be part of the grouping linked to Zille, they are now opponents for the position, splitting opinion in the camp about who Zille’s successor should be.
Those pushing for Winde claim Madikizela has been unable to keep a firm grip as provincial leader and is therefore unfit to lead the Western Cape government.
But those pushing for Madikizela believe it would be an insult to him if someone else was selected as premier candidate while he is provincial leader.
Speaking to the Mail &Guardian this week, Madikizela dismissed criticism that he had failed as provincial leader.
“Those are isolated cases. I think people forget that in the Western Cape we are in government in 29 municipalities. And if you have lone rangers who do their own thing, it’s in a few of those 29 municipalities. So please let’s not exaggerate these things,” Madikizela said.
“I’ve been MEC now for almost 10 years and I am the leader of the party in the province and understand the issues that affect our people. I believe I am the right person to take over from Helen,” he added.
Some of the crises the Western Cape DA has faced under Madikizela’s leadership include the Cape Town water shortage, the long battle with Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille and rogue mayors in Knysna and George municipalities.
A senior DA leader said the incidents were being used as ammunition to discredit Madikizela: “So many of our governments in the Western Cape are falling apart. And that’s why they think Bonginkosi is incompetent. If you are unable to lead the party in the province, how will you be the leader of the second- biggest economy in South Africa?
“But there are some people who are nervous about the push for Alan [Winde] and are saying Bonginkosi should be elected, otherwise it will make him look like a fool, because he is the provincial leader,” the senior leader added.
A former member of the Western Cape legislature, Lennit Max, who unsuccessfully contested Madikizela to become provincial leader last year, shares the same sentiments.
“If the party doesn’t appoint Bonginkosi then it will be clear that he was just used as a pawn and that the DA doesn’t support him or believe in him,” Max said.
“I want to say to him if he is not appointed he must realise it’s the end of his political career and the party has no faith in him.”
But Madikizela said he would not feel undermined or used if he was not selected.
“We must never promote a culture of entitlement, no matter who you are. So I don’t share that view. I have faith in my party and whatever decision it takes, I will respect [it],” Madikizela said.
He insisted that his relationship with Winde was still good: “Alan and I are colleagues. The difference between us and other parties is that we don’t take these things personally. We are still close.”
According to party insiders the top three contenders in the premiership battle are Winde, Madikizela and MP David Maynier. Some party members have suggested that the selected candidate must be coloured to accommodate the majority population in the Western Cape. Butit is believed that there are not enough prominent coloured leaders to take over the reigns from Zille.
Madikizela believed it was an “insult to coloured people” to suggest they would only vote for the DA based on whether the premier candidate looked like them.
Max cautioned the DA against this approach and said a failure to include coloured leaders in senior positions would likely see retaliation from the coloured population in the Western Cape.
“Politics in South Africa is very much a politics of identity because of our country’s history,” Max said.
“So if the DA doesn’t include coloured leaders, coloured people will punish them, and show them“don’t take us for granted’.”