If the DA has a chance of winning national government, it must expand from being a voice for South African minorities and attract more black voters, party leader Mmusi Maimane said on Friday.
“We cannot content ourselves with being the voice of minorities; we must broaden our appeal to attract more black South Africans too,” said Maimane, writing in his newsletter Bokamoso.
The DA Federal Council will sit on Saturday and Sunday where it will deliberate on an internal review commissioned in the wake of the party’s 2019 general election losses and elect a new Federal Council chairperson.
While Maimane’s position is not up for contest, it has been reported that the report recommends he step down and that the party hold an early federal congress to elect new leadership.
“The DA has set out on a course to become the national government in South Africa – this is no secret. This project is as urgent and necessary as ever and we will pursue it, however difficult that may be,” said the DA leader.
“We have absolutely no intention of retreating and becoming a regional party and it is in no-one’s interest that we do so.”
The review, conducted by by DA leader Tony Leon, former party strategist Ryan Coetzee and Capitec founder Michiel le Roux, is expected to recommend policy changes that would help win back conservative white voters who ditched the DA in the May elections and voted for the Freedom Front Plus.
If implemented, that could see the DA move away from policies tying historical redress to race and challenges to the diversity clause the party introduced in its 2018 congress, potentially isolating black voters and sacrificing the future growth of the party.
“The DA faces the unique challenge of needing to make an emotional connection with a wide range of voters of vastly differing world views and backgrounds,” said Maimane.
“Growing pains were inevitable. And if our minor slide backwards leads us to make the necessary adjustments to get us back on course, then history will show it was a better outcome than a minor increase would have been.”
DA federal chairperson Athol Trollip and former party leader Helen Zille are front-runners for the Federal Council chairperson position in a field that also includes deputy federal council chairperson Thomas Walters and deputy federal chairperson Mike Waters.
Around 155 delegates will vote for the influential DA position on Sunday morning. Maimane, who has faced media leaks regarding his house and car recently, is looking to Trollip to help shore-up his control and fend off detractors who want him gone.
Trollip is reported to have the support of DA leaders in Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Western Cape and his campaign has focused on “dedication, loyalty and discipline”. Zille has emphasised building unity, stability and ensuring the party continues to grow.
The internal party review also is reported to have recommended that the DA hold an early congress to elect new leadership and that Maimane should not stand for re-election. Maimane has shown no intention of stepping down and has also floated the idea of holding an early congress, probably a pre-emptive step to win re-election and take tighter control of the party.
The DA announced that its CEO Paul Boughey resigned on Thursday, the second senior party leader to leave in the wake of the May vote after elections campaign manager Jonathan Moakes resigned shortly after the general elections.
“The DA is currently going through an important phase of self-reflection, this is a necessary process in order to strengthen itself,” said Boughey in his resignation letter.
“I have no doubt, that the leadership and broader membership of the DA will rise to this moment, that it will recalibrate and come back even stronger to face the challenges of election 2021 and beyond,” he continued.
In his newsletter on Friday, Maimane emphasised the need for the party to embrace change. His detractors are largely seen to be a part of the DA’s conservative old guard. DM
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