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Bonginkosi Madikizela and Tertuis Simmers to contest for DA leadership at Western Cape congress

Bonginkosi Madikizela and Tertuis Simmers to contest for DA leadership at Western Cape congress
Illustrative image: DA Western Cape leadership rivals Bonginkosi Madikizela (left) and Tertuis Simmers. (Photos: Gallo Images / Misha Jordaan | Aisha Abdool Karim)

Bonginkosi Madikizela and Tertuis Simmers are vying to become the DA’s Western Cape leader in what is expected to be a close race at the party’s provincial congress this weekend.

After a turbulent term, which involved changing leaders twice, the DA in the Western Cape is set to convene a provincial congress and elect new leadership on Saturday, 11 November.

Electoral support for the party in the province declined slightly in the previous provincial elections after the DA won 55.45% in 2019, down from 59.38% in 2014.

The emergence of parties like the Patriotic Alliance, Good party, National Coloured Congress and other small parties in the rural areas poses a threat to the DA’s plan to retain the province with a majority in the 2024 elections.

While the ANC has remained the official opposition in the Western Cape Legislature since the DA took office in 2009, its electoral support dropped to just 28.63% in 2019 compared with 32.89% in 2014. 

The theme for the DA’s provincial congress this year is “The Western Cape Works” and it will celebrate the successes the province has achieved under the DA, which are likely to form a key part of its election campaigns nationally and in highly contested provinces such as Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

Presiding officer Desiree van der Walt cited some of those successes: “From having the lowest unemployment rate in the country to implementing the very effective Provincial Safety Plan, to fighting load shedding.”

More than 1,000 delegates are expected to form part of the congress that will elect new provincial leaders to take the party into the 2024 provincial elections.

The party’s previous provincial leader, Bonginkosi Madikizela, who was first elected in 2017 and reelected in 2020, stepped down in April 2021 after a Daily Maverick investigation found he had lied about having a BCom degree.

The deputy provincial leader at the time, Albert Fritz, took the reins from Madikizela, but stepped down in January 2022 after allegations of sexual misconduct.

The party then elected Tertuis Simmers, who serves as the Western Cape infrastructure MEC, to serve as interim provincial leader with JP Smith as his deputy.

Madikizela vs Simmers

Madikizela and Simmers are now up against each other in the provincial leadership race. This promises to be closely contested. Madikizela is still favoured by most senior councillors in the City of Cape Town, despite his qualification scandal and time away from politics.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Bonginkosi Madikizela resurfaces aiming to make the grade as Western Cape provincial leader

Premier Alan Winde offered to hire Madikizela as his special adviser a year after he resigned as provincial leader and MEC for Transport and Public Works. He ended up not taking the post after facing a backlash from opposition parties who said he was not qualified to earn a level four salary. 

Speaking to Daily Maverick about the upcoming congress, Madikizela said the party was preparing for a watershed moment in 2024, an opportunity for the DA to govern nationally.

“We need experienced leaders who understand the political dynamics of our country and relate to their plight.” 

He said his offer to the delegates in the upcoming congress was servant leadership that had been with people on the ground, delivering services.

He described himself as “an informed leader about our political dynamics in our province and the country. A humble leader who treats people with respect and believes in engaging instead of instructing people. A leader who appeals to all electorates in order to grow the party in all corners of the province.” 

Simmers, who has been in the hot seat for 22 months, boasts the support of party deputy federal chairperson JP Smith and some provincial MECs. He was criticised recently after it was revealed that he owned two properties yet lived nearby in an estate where the state paid his rent.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Western Cape MEC Tertuis Simmers denies impropriety in house perk row

He said that in the past 22 months under his interim leadership, the DA had put the basic strategic processes in place to ensure its target of electoral growth with an absolute majority in the 2024 provincial election.

“My vision, therefore, for the DA Western Cape is clearly contained in my manifesto as presented to our congress delegates: forward, stronger, together, which is scored on the fundamental basis of empowering every activist and branch, in all 408 wards, in order to take ownership of our party over the next decade.” 

The congress will also see Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis elected unopposed as provincial deputy leader. Jaco Londt and Johannes Marais are also running unopposed for the provincial chairperson and provincial finance chairperson positions, respectively.

Delegates will also elect three provincial deputy chairpersons and four additional members. DM

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