Independent Democrats leader and Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille added her voice to the growing chorus of endorsements for Lindiwe Mazibuko’s bid to become the Democratic Alliance’s leader in Parliament. With no public endorsement yet for her competition, incumbent Athol Trollip, and with the “diversity card” firmly in her pocket, it appears Mazibuko is an early stage favourite. By OSIAME MOLEFE.
“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
"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason." ~ Thomas Paine