THE leadership race in the Democratic Alliance (DA) has tongues wagging. But giggles accompany the speculation as Mmusi Maimane will soon face his Lindiwe Mazibuko moment: conform or ship out.

Conforming means kowtowing to white patronage to ensure the pipeline produces blacks of whom the party’s ancestors can be proud. Thus, some whites are always in the background. Recall departing leader Helen Zille, who said she "made" Mazibuko — then denied it. DA dogma has it that blacks who succeed on their own must have bribed their way to the top or be close to the African National Congress (ANC).

An example of this thinking was when the Department of Trade and Industry awarded the licence for the national lottery to Ithuba Holdings. DA MP Geordin Hill-Lewis said he would request clarification on the decision. According to legislation, the minister must be completely satisfied before awarding the licence that no political party or office bearer has any direct financial interest in the company receiving the licence.

Hill-Lewis argued political financial interest, saying Nehawu Lottery Investments (NLI) is indirectly owned by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), which is an affiliate of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

NLI, through Nehawu Investment Holdings, directly owned by Nehawu, is a shareholder of the Ithuba consortium. Mr Hill-Lewis’s convoluted reasoning is that as Nehawu is an ally of the ANC and strongly encourages it to vote for the ANC in elections, the granting of the licence is flawed. Yet, Ithuba brings women’s empowerment to the fore in the gaming industry. A discussion with chairman Seth Phalatse reveals that, for the first time in the history of the lottery, two women — Charmaine Mabuza and Yvonne Schneider — will be in the driving seat. When the first draw by the newly appointed company is made on June 3, Mabuza will be pulling the levers as CEO, filling shoes previously worn by the likes of Bongani Khumalo and the late Humphrey Khoza.

She was on the first board of directors of Women’s Investment Portfolio Holdings Limited, the first black women-owned company to list on the JSE. She is a founding member of Ithuba, with a pedigree similar to those of Gloria Serobe, Wendy Appelbaum, Maria Ramos, Monhla Hlahla, Futhi Mtoba and Brigalia Bam, to mention just a few of our female business titans.

Indeed, SA really leads the stakes in women’s empowerment. Schneider earned her stripes in the gaming industry so claims that Ithuba knows nothing about gaming are hogwash. She was secretary-general for the World Lottery Association from 1999 to 2006. She also served as a member of the Union of European Football Associations (Uefa) Cup Commission and is the recipient of an acknowledgement from Uefa for outstanding service and dedication to European football. There are more women in Ithuba’s middle management, as Phalatse points out.

This certainly sees the male chauvinist DA blush, particularly as it is exchanging a female leader for a man. Obviously, Hill-Lewis’s gripe is also that deeply embedded attitude of "you never know with these blacks; something, somewhere, must be wrong". It is the likes of Hill-Lewis who will be Maimane’s handlers. He will not rock the boat.

Maimane cannot offer SA a better vision. He will win because the traditionalists are comfortable with him. The past few days have seen every white in the DA punt him, with a few black voices here and there.

I am sure the ANC, which has been having a rough time lately, is grinning with delight.

• Mazwai is a former journalist and editor.

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