First the good news. It broke even before the press conference could start on Thursday morning: DA spokeswoman Lindiwe Mazibuko walloped the party’s parliamentary leader Athol Trollip in the DA’s mid-term caucus elections, and will now take over from him.
It wasn’t much of a surprise. Mazibuko, who got 50 out of the 83 votes, ran a well-oiled, public campaign through HWB Communications, a public relations company she hired for the purpose.
Buried underneath her campaign message that the 31-year-old will bring renewal and rejuvenation to the caucus, was the belief that her election would transform the DA into a party more attractive to black voters. The jury is out on that one.
Her running mate, the party’s federal chairman Wilmot James, had a less convincing victory with 43 votes cast for him to be caucus chairman (to take over from James Masango, who will be returning to Mpumalanga), with the other 38 going to Sej Motau. Mazibuko supporter Marti Wenger was elected deputy caucus chairwoman, beating Annelie Lotriet to it.
Both James and Mazibuko are first-term MPs (they’ve been serving since 2009) but Mazibuko is expected to appoint an old hand, Watty Watson, to be the party’s new chief whip (to take over from Ian Davidson).
Now for the less good news for Mazibuko’s supporters, although only a very, very humble or pessimistic person would see this as a defeat. Mazibuko’s running mates didn’t win the “lesser” position. These went to Trollip’s running mates: Elza van Lingen is new DA leader in the National Council of Provinces, and deputy chief whip is Sandy Kalyan.
Mazibuko is the first black leader for the DA in Parliament, and the second woman. Although the DA does not have a 50% quota for gender representation in Parliament, two-thirds of its six top Parliamentary leaders are now female.
Shortly before Thursday morning’s election, Trollip seems to have sensed defeat when he told SAfm that he was confident because he had done everything he could in the campaign, but it was difficult to tell with these things how the result would go.
Insiders who supported Mazibuko said he was “a bit grumpy” in the morning when the candidates delivered their final campaign speeches, apparently about a column veteran politics writer Allister Sparks wrote in Business Day, saying: “What the DA needs now is the youthful juice of a vibrant new sapling rather than a stolid old bluegum tree that can’t bend with the winds of change”.
But Trollip, who is the DA’s leader in the Eastern Cape, is said to have accepted the defeat in good spirits, saying he would carry on serving the caucus. “He did not indicate that he was leaving,” the insider said.
Mazibuko was said to have had Zille’s quiet support. Altogether 83 people are eligible to vote in the party’s parliamentary mid-term elections: 77 DA MPs, five ID MPs and Zille, who is party leader. DM
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Old-fashioned crisps used to come with a packet of salt giving the purchaser the choice whether to salt their chips or not.