New DA Western Cape leader Tertuis Simmers sets bar high, targets 60% electoral support

New DA Western Cape leader Tertuis Simmers sets bar high, targets 60% electoral support
Tertuis Simmers at the DA's election conference at Hillsong Church in Cape Town on 11 November 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger / Theo Jeptha)

Fresh from being elected to lead the biggest political party in the Western Cape, Tertuis Simmers has set himself a target no DA leader has achieved.

Almost two-thirds of more than 1,000 party delegates voted for Tertuis Simmers to be the DA’s Western Cape leader last week. Internal party manoeuvring indicated he enjoyed the support of senior DA leaders, which may have influenced the voting. On paper, the resounding victory is a sign of DA trust in Simmers, who had tried unsuccessfully twice before to become part of the DA’s provincial leadership.

With probably fewer than four months to go before national and provincial elections, the new leader has set his sights on achieving the DA’s best polling results in the Western Cape.

Set a clear target

“My bigger objective is to reach 60%,” Simmers told Daily Maverick. The closest the party has come to that figure was 59.38%, in the 2014 national and provincial elections. Its level of support declined slightly in 2019, to 55.45% of votes.

“For the last 22 months, we have been working hard to ensure we stay on course. We have done our data, we have seen the projection, so we have set a clear target.”

I remain an activist of the party and I remain with my fellow activists on the ground.

Born in Nelspruit, the father of four cut his teeth in politics in the DA Youth before moving to the Garden Route District Municipality, formerly the Eden District Municipality, where he became a councillor. He also served in the George municipality before being sworn in as a member of the Western Cape legislature in 2019. He describes his leadership style as “activist-driven” rather than occupying ideological positions.

“I remain an activist of the party and I remain with my fellow activists on the ground. My style of leadership is also to develop new leadership for the DA because our project is to save South Africa.”

Jaco Londt, the DA Western Cape chairperson, who met Simmers for the first time in 2009, described the new leader as a “passionate individual”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections dilemma 2024 — voting out the ineffective ANC, DA and EFF power trips

“He is also a hard worker. When he started off as a DA professional staff member, he did the work at that time for which we employ four people now.

“Working hours was an alien concept with Tertuis. He is never afraid to go the extra mile to build the party and help colleagues achieve success,” Londt said.

Although Simmers is the Western Cape DA leader, he is not the party’s candidate for premier in the upcoming elections. In August, DA national leader John Steenhuisen named current premier Alan Winde as the candidate. Next year will mark 15 years of DA governance in the Western Cape and the provincial leader has never been the premier.

Separation of powers

This is similar to KwaZulu-Natal, where uMngeni Local Municipality mayor Chris Pappas was named the DA’s provincial premier candidate, but he is not the party leader in the province.

However, in the Eastern Cape, Free State and Gauteng, DA provincial leaders are the party’s premiership candidates.

Simmers, who is the MEC for infrastructure in the Western Cape, said not being a premier candidate while leading the party in the province was great for the separation of powers and for accountability.

“It is actually healthy because the political structure exercises oversight over the governance structure. We are also in an environment where we implement DA policies and now you have a premier and provincial leader working well together.”

Rising small parties in the rural areas focus on coloured nationalism, and they have proven the DA right that a vote for a smaller party is a vote for the ANC.

Using recent by-elections as a measure, it is evident that the DA in rural areas of the Western Cape has shown growth.

But the threat of small regional parties, and the likes of the Patriotic Alliance, remains a reality. The PA in the Swartland was 135 short of matching the DA’s vote for the Ward 7 by-election.

These parties have found a foothold and a way to get on to councils.

Simmers said the DA was not losing sleep over small parties as provincial and national elections were a whole new game.

“Rising small parties in the rural areas focus on coloured nationalism, and they have proven the DA right that a vote for a smaller party is a vote for the ANC.

“We have seen whenever they get the opportunity to form coalitions, their first long-term choice is the ANC.

“We have seen this in the Beaufort West, Knysna and Theewaterskloof municipalities and in all these three municipalities we have a rapid decline in governance and service delivery.” DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The fellow is a real dreamer as the 60 percent is going to be a bridge too far for the DA in the Western Cape. If he is discounting the issue of permanent minorities and their interests he is a real blind leader. He seems to be blind to the geopolitical backdrop against which the elections would be held and the impact this would have on the elections in the country in particular the conflict in the Middle East. Thee are some of the important issues that would shape the electoral outcomes in the Western Cape. He is spewing the DA culture of not caring what the poor and the marginalised in the Coloured community are saying as in other communities. He thinks that the DA owns the Coloured vote in the Western Cape and he is mistaken. He is very politically naive to mouth what he says. As a political leader you have to listen to the issues that attract voters to the opposition and where you can address the issues you need to do so. The fact that the DA is losing municipalities to other parties in the Western Cape ought not to elicit rank arrogance but concern on what is it that they are doing wrong and sayin for voters to look for other alternatives. The supremacist attitude of the DA is going to be its own grave.

    • Simon Whittaker says:

      Cunningham, whilst I sympathize with some of the comment I have a few questions. Why would you take into account the views of the DA on the conflict in the Middle East? The DA, as the opposition to the governing ANC, have a voice but do not, and will not after the election, dictate foreign policy on Gaza. In fact, neither will our ANC Gov. We like to think we are significant in the world, but in reality, we are not. Why would you compromise the province, which is hands down better than any other province, purely based on what won’t affect the province one way or another? The ANC has proven over 3o years (by next election) they are pretty poor at governing, both nationally and at provincial level. The population growth in the WC since the last census and the latest results is not from birth increases, it is from migrants moving here for a better life. The WC is responsible for 90% of the new jobs created sine Covid-19. It has the lowest unemployment rate and the highest success rate in school results. Why would anyone want to compromise that. The argument of the WC Gov does nothing for the poor is absolute rubbish. The City of Cape Town allocates nearly 80% of its annual budget to the poorest 20% of the city. Highest number of clean audits from the auditor general year after year. Its a no brainer.

      • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

        The DA has to look at the demographic make up of the Western Cape as well as the religious diversity of the Province. It has also to look at the how people in general view the conflict in the Middle East within the Western Cape. One is saying this with full understanding of the political dynamics of the Western Cape. The issue of permanent minorities is a reality in South Africa with Afrikaners and Coloured communities feeling marginalised rightly or wrongly. As a leader you do not say you do not care about the rise of parties organising on ethnic grounds you are either a fool or you are blind to the dangers of ethnic mobilisation. The issue of Gaza will have more impact in the Western Cape than any other Province in the country in the elections because of its make up and nature of its politics. If you read Mahmood Mamdani in Neither a Settler or Native, you will be able to decode the emerging political landscape. The DA did not read this issue of permanent minorities as Afrikaners flocked to the FF Plus and when they did they wanted to be the laager. The emergence of parties targeting the Coloured community that has long left the ANC, is going to be hitting the DA very hard if the fellow is not able to read the situation properly. This is the reason Ipsos polls put the DA at 20%. Delivery by the DA to the poor is a claim that must be tested amongst the poor including the pumping of sewage into the sea.

        • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

          Its easy to knock parties, but much harder to present a good alternative, particularly given that the Western Cape functions so much better than any other province.

          Who do you recommend as the best party to run the Western Cape, and why.

        • Louise Wilkins says:

          “Delivery by the DA to the poor is a claim that must be tested amongst the poor”
          Test it then, do your research and find out just how much the DA help the poor. I hate to say this, but you sound like you’re just spewing anything in order to put the DA down. Have you even been to Cape Town to see for yourself?

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      Viva Tertius!! Viva DA!!

      There are those who think and DO and those who think that they think but don’t DO. Cunningham the DA delivers the best in the country, the poor INCLUDED!

  • Elmarie Dennis says:

    Servant leadership a pure blessing for all South Africans. God bless the DA.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

[%% img-description %%]

The Spy Bill: An autocratic roadmap to State Capture 2.0

Join Heidi Swart in conversation with Anton Harber and Marianne Merten as they discuss a concerning push to pass a controversial “Spy Bill” into law by May 2024. Tues 5 Dec at 12pm, live, online and free of charge.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.8% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.2% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.2% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.2%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options