Bonginkosi Madikizela. Picture: DAVID HARRISON
Bonginkosi Madikizela. Picture: DAVID HARRISON

Another blistering fight is brewing in the DA about a proposed amendment to its regulations for the nomination of candidates to Parliament and provincial legislatures.

The amendment could see provincial leaders become fully participating members of its selection panels. Senior party leaders have warned that it "would make the provincial leaders virtually omnipotent in the candidate selection process, with enormous scope for abuse and patronage," according to an open letter by party members seen by Business Day.

The fight is yet another one between those who are concerned that the DA is rapidly becoming an "ANC-light" and those seeking to change power dynamics in the party to make it more inclusive.

The open letter was sent to the 145 members on Friday morning who would attend the meeting of the DA’s federal council this weekend, in which 34 signatories warned against the so called "patronage amendment". They urged the members to reject the amendment, which they believe would have "far reaching and harmful consequences" for the DA’s internal workings ahead of the 2019 national election, as well as in the future.

The signatories included only two of the nine provincial leaders, namely Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela and North West leader Joe McGluwa, while deputy chair of the federal council Natasha Mazzone, deputy federal chairpersons Ivan Meyer and Mike Waters, chief whip John Steenhuisen and MP Gavin Davis all signed in its support.

The regulations already make provision for the leader to address the selection panel, while the proposed amendment adds that this could happen if "he or she is not already a member of the the selection panel, or attending it by virtue of the entitlement conferred by section 7.6 of the federal constitution or a similar provision in a provincial constitution…."

The amendment also adds the line that "provincial leaders who attend selection panel(s) may provide advice and must ensure fairness and adherence to procedures, but may not otherwise participate in its or their proceedings".

The signatories said in the letter it was "a seemingly small and innocuously worded amendment", but that it opened "the door for provincial leaders to sit on, and participate in, selection panels". They were previously expressly precluded from participating in election panels.

"The ‘patronage amendment’ will have the effect of making provincial leaders extraordinarily powerful in the candidate selection system; more powerful than any other person or elected body in the party," the signatories warned.

They said the provincial leaders already had significant influence in the red-flagging of candidates, in nominating members of the selection panel, in being members of electoral colleges, in editing the final lists, in addressing the selection panels and as candidates whose election to the number one slot was guaranteed.

"The addition of the very significant influence and power attached to being a de facto full member of the selection panel would make the provincial leader virtually omnipotent in the candidate selection process, with enormous scope for abuse and patronage. We contend that the amendment, as proposed, would make the provincial leaders players, coach, referee, captain and selector, all simultaneously," the members warned in the letter.

The signatories said deployment of provincial leaders as full members of the selection panel was forbidden under the current rules, as they were automatically members of the party’s electoral college and had a demonstrable personal and/or financial interest in the outcome of the selection process.