“Comeback Gogo” Zille makes a return

Helen Zille is the new chairperson of the DA's federal council. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Helen Zille is the new chairperson of the DA's federal council. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has a new second in command.

The Mail & Guardian understands that the former Western Cape premier saw off challenges from former Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip, and MPs Mike Waters and Thomas Walters.

A source inside the DA’s federal council called her the “comeback gogo”.

“I don’t know if it was by a landslide. Our preferential voting system won’t be able to account for that,” the source said

The 155 federal council delegates voted at 7am this morning, casting their ballot as to who their first, second, third, and fourth choice were.

Zille replaces James Selfe — who will go on to head the party’s governance unit.

The victory for Zille is a major blow to DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s hopes to both finish his term — which ends in 2021 — and continue as party leader going into the local government elections.

It is also likely to spark an early conference - which both Zille’s supporters and Maimane’s backers have called for.

Zilles’s backers want an early elective meet to replace Maimane with their preferred candidate. His supporters believe that they have enough support from the party’s provincial structures to win the conference, and vote in a new Maimane-led party executive.

There’s no word yet whether party leader Mmusi Maimane has survived a recommendation by the party’s election review report, compiled by former party leader Tony Leon, former policy head Ryan Coetzee, and Capitec bank founder Michiel Le Roux.

The report noted the DA’s electoral slump in the 2019 general elections. This was its first-ever slump, getting 20.7% of the vote.

As a result, the party lost five seats in the National Assembly, from a high of 89 seats in 2014.  It also lost ground in a number of provincial legislatures, including KwaZulu-Natal where it had become the official opposition in 2014. It lost out in May to the Inkatha Freedom Party, which is now the second largest party in the legislature.

On Saturday, Maimane is understood to have challenged his detractors to leave the party if they were unhappy with its policy direction. He is also understood to have called for an early election and policy conference to be held next year to settle issues over the party’s political direction and its leadership going into the 2021 polls.

Zille has already made it clear that she is unhappy over the policy direction the DA has taken, with the adoption of policies to redress the inequalities of the past. Maimane on the other hand has defended the DA’s current positions, adopted at congress ahead of the 2016 local government poll, which he and he and his supporters will seek to keep them in place at the early conference.

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