DA members seen at the party's manifesto launch in Johannesburg. DA leader Mmusi Maimane said his party will create jobs and root out corruption. Picture: GENEVIEVE QUINTAL
DA members seen at the party's manifesto launch in Johannesburg. DA leader Mmusi Maimane said his party will create jobs and root out corruption. Picture: GENEVIEVE QUINTAL

The battle for the new chair of the DA’s federal council, which is arguably the most powerful position in the party, is likely to be a two-horse race between former party leader Helen Zille and federal chair Athol Trollip.

This is despite there being four candidates — Zille, Trollip, DA deputy federal chair Mike Waters, and acting federal chair Thomas Walters.

Few within the party are willing to make a call on the outcome ahead of this weekends election, except Trollip, who told Business Day that he had contacted every delegate, answered all their questions and believed he had enough support to win.

He said he was campaigning on three attributes that he believed made him the most suitable candidate: loyalty, dedication and discipline. Those have helped him to build cohesive and united teams where he has led in the party before, Trollip said.

“We have become less cohesive, coherent and disciplined and [our] message discipline is weak,” he said.

Zille said she “never, ever” predicted the outcome of elections.

“This one is going to be very close and I’m just going to give it my best shot,” she said, adding that she was ready for it. The former DA leader said she was busy going through the normal canvassing “with great commitment and determination”. 

When Zille made the surprise announcement that she was standing, she explained her decision saying that the DA had, in recent times, gone through a period of turmoil and distress, and that the party had to reflect, introspect and begin the process of reconnecting with voters.

She said that if she was elected, her objective would be to support the leadership in its goal of stabilising the DA and bringing it back on track.  

Waters said the DA had to reclaim its liberal values and reject race based policies such as BEE.

“What the DA must do is to have an empowerment programme in which the proxy for poverty is poverty and not race,” he said.

The issue of the DA’s empowerment policies have contributed to some of the battles which spilt over into the public last year.

Waters said liberty, individual freedoms, opportunity and aspirations were important. He said his message was resonating with people, and that support for his vision went wider than merely the voting delegates.

Walters would not comment saying he did not “campaign in the media”.

The final list with the names of all the voting delegates with their contact details was sent to the four candidates on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Desiree van der Walt, the DA’s presiding officer of federal council elections, said the weekend federal council would deal with two items: the report of the organisational review panel and the election of a new federal council chair.

There has been intense focus on this election in the past few weeks, which has been worsened by the review of the party structures and processes, which was commissioned in the wake of the DA’s electoral losses in the general election in May.

The report by the panel is set to ruffle feathers in the federal council as the body will have to decide which recommendations it will implement, while the election of federal council chair is also expected to affect the direction the party takes.

Van der Walt said about 155 members will vote this weekend for the chair position, which was held by James Selfe, who will now be heading up the party’s governance unit.

At the end of the federal council’s session on Saturday, each of the candidates standing for the position will be given five minutes to address the delegates and motivate for why they should be elected, she said.

Voting will take place between 7am and 8.45am on Sunday, with the announcement expected at about midday.