“The team that Lindiwe leads represents what is best about our party. The combination of Lindiwe, Dr Wilmot James and Watty Watson is a testament to the kind of South Africa we are trying to build,” De Lille said in a statement that was almost verbatim what Mazibuko said when she announced her candidacy on 27 September.
De Lille, who may at some point after joining the party have harboured ambitions to become parliamentary leader herself, recognised the historical significance of the election in her statement and emphasised the diversity of the Mazibuko ticket, which is comprised of a mix of youth and experience, races, cultures and backgrounds. If there was any uncertainty before, we can now be sure that the five ID MPs eligible to vote in the 27 October election will take their cue from their leader.
In his interviews last week, Trollip, seemingly out of touch with the significance of the moment, maintained that the DA was not a “party of quotas” and expressed surprise that race was being contested publicly.
He may be right to say that the DA’s open opportunity society claims to be blind to race and makes appointments based on the concept of fit for purpose. But for the party’s claim to be the most diverse party in South Africa to be more than an empty strapline, its leadership structures need, as Mazibuko put it, to “broadly represent the South African people’s diversity”. Trollip just happens to be up against a candidate who fulfils both the fit for purpose and diversity criteria.
Trollip’s answer – that he is fluent in “vernacular” and that he as built the party’s support in black areas – falls short of meeting the need for diversity.
The public nature of the race, a savvy move by Mazibuko’s team, has also upped the stakes. Were she to lose, it is likely to do some damage to the party and hand the ANC political ammunition heading into the 2014 national elections. That is why senior party leaders like federal chair James Selfe are reportedly campaigning behind the scenes to pressure Trollip into pulling out of the race – something he has refused to do.
Late last week, caucus chairman James Masango, his deputy Marti Wegner and three party provincial leaders endorsed Mazibuko. MPs Natasha Michael and Stevens Mokgalapa also threw their lot in with Mazibuko, who already enjoys the support of the party’s other younger MPs.
Party leader Helen Zille has yet to publicly endorse a candidate but the mutual admiration between her and Mazibuko is no secret. The three weeks that remain will be the longest of Mazibuko’s short political career, and what she does between now and then could well determine the near future of her party. DM
Are You A South AfriCAN or a South AfriCAN'T?
Maverick Insider is more than a reader revenue scheme. While not quite a "state of mind", it is a mindset: it's about believing that independent journalism makes a genuine difference to our country and it's about having the will to support that endeavour.
From the #GuptaLeaks into State Capture to the Scorpio exposés into SARS, Daily Maverick investigations have made an enormous impact on South Africa and it's political landscape. As we enter an election year, our mission to Defend Truth has never been more important. A free press is one of the essential lines of defence against election fraud; without it, national polls can turn very nasty, very quickly as we have seen recently in the Congo.
If you would like a practical, tangible way to make a difference in South Africa consider signing up to become a Maverick Insider. You choose how much to contribute and how often (monthly or annually) and in exchange, you will receive a host of awesome benefits. The greatest benefit of all (besides inner peace)? Making a real difference to a country that needs your support.
Kids in the United Kingdom spend less time outside than prison inmates.