Durban - The DA in KwaZulu-Natal has rung the changes in its eThekwini leadership and with it, has fuelled perceptions that the party is gearing itself to attracting young black voters for the 2014 and 2016 elections.
On Monday, 34-year-old Zwakhele Mncwango was elected caucus leader, replacing a much older - and paler - Tex Collins, who was ousted by a vote of no confidence by party colleagues.
A political analyst believes that the move to demote 67-year-old Collins had more to do with the DA’s wanting to be seen as a party fully representative of the eThekwini constituency, and thus bring in a face more appealing to its target market - the educated black youth and so-called “born-frees”.
Speaking after his election, Mncwango himself attested to this when he said that he and Heinz de Boer - who was elected to the second position on the executive committee - would “create a platform to make the DA a government-in-waiting” for the 2016 local government elections.
Using their positions on the executive committee, Mncwango said, they would “hold the ANC to account” and ensure that it delivered. “I am very happy with the team of leaders alongside me and we want to take the DA message to all communities, some of whom have not had any interaction with the DA leadership,” he said.
Durban-based political analyst Zakhele Ndlovu believes that the DA has a “very good chance” of attracting the black youth with its latest leadership move, saying that this complements Sizwe Mchunu as the party’s provincial leader.
Strategically, the DA was trying to counter the perception that it was still a white party and there was every indication that it was eyeing more power in future elections.
The DA was now able to portray itself as a party representative of all race groups, especially with the number of prominent black faces at the higher levels of leadership on a national level,
“This move makes a difference in terms of the changing face of the party and I think strategically it could work for them - especially among the so-called born-frees, who do not really have attachments to any particular party.
“The (national and provincial) elections are coming up next year and I think the DA is starting early to position itself as a party of the future.”
Ndlovu believed that removing Collins for not effectively representing the party at executive committee level was “just an excuse” to allow a change of face, particularly as Mncwango was not one of the most senior party members.
Provincial leader Mchunu defended Collins again on Monday, saying that he was not to be blamed for the manner in which he handled the Manase Report. The report was a matter that the party was “particularly concerned about”, and the way it had been handled was indicative of the party’s standing on it, he said.
Collins, meanwhile, said he believed that the “right people” were democratically elected to the leadership positions.
In his 12-year career with the DA, Mncwango has served as chairman and vice-chairman at branch level and is now serving his second term as deputy chairman of the constituency.
He has also been a youth leader in the province.
Other new appointments included Martin Meyer as deputy caucus leader, Riona Gokool as caucus chairwoman, Rocky Naidoo as deputy caucus chairman, and Geoff Pullan as deputy chief whip.