Makashule Gana (right). Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Makashule Gana (right). Picture: MARTIN RHODES

As the DA moves to select its candidate for the Gauteng premiership, member of the provincial legislature (MPL) Makashule Gana says Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga has promised not to compete with him for the position.

The competition for the sought-after candidacy in Gauteng is the most heated of all the provinces in the DA’s internal battles, ahead of the 2019 elections.

The DA already has one premier — Helen Zille in the Western Cape. It sees Gauteng, where it runs two metros, albeit within coalitions, as offering the possibility of pushing the ANC to below 50% of the vote.

Interviews for the positions were expected to take place later in July, and will be conducted by the DA’s selection panel, which is made up of representatives from the province and others from the federal executive.

Msimanga’s name on the DA’s list of its premiership hopefuls was unexpected, as he had not indicated his interest. He was also at Gana’s side when the Gauteng MPL launched his campaign.

Msimanga is seen as a compromise candidate between Gana, who started campaigning months ago, and DA MP Ghaleb Cachalia, who has strong backing from the traditional so-called liberals in the party.

Msimanga also has a strong public profile due to his position as Tshwane mayor, and is believed to have ambitions of moving into the national structures of the party.

"Solly is a brother, he is a leader, he is a friend. When his name came up, obviously I was not expecting it. It came as a surprise because the conversation that we have been having was that he will be focusing on Tshwane, as there was still a lot of work to be done there," Gana said.

"And then when we met that Sunday [when the list of applicants was released] he did say, no he will not be contesting me. And I have no reason to doubt his word and to second guess it. I take his word [for] it," Gana added.

However, he said he would not object if Msimanga did eventually contest "for some reason".

Gana also said he would not want to compete with Msimanga, but that he was going ahead with his campaign.

"If I had known that he wanted to contest, I probably wouldn’t have put my name forward. I would have rather assisted him. In the same way if John [Moodey, DA Gauteng leader] wanted to stand, I would have assisted him," Gana said.

Msimanga did not respond to requests for comment on the matter. It was unclear if he would be continuing with the process, or if he had withdrawn his name from the race for the candidacy or planned to do so.