Durban - Senior DA members were expected to press their leader, Helen Zille, to relinquish her role as premier of Western Cape and lead the party in Parliament.
The call was expected to be made on Friday when members of the DA’s federal executive committee meet in Johannesburg to map out the party’s future after last week’s general elections - and the sudden resignation of parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko.
According to DA insiders, leaders of the various provinces would argue that Zille should fill the void left by Mazibuko and lead the DA parliamentary caucus.
They want to avoid a bruising contest for the caucus leader positions between Mmusi Maimane, a rising star in the party, and former DA youth leader, Makashule Gana.
Maimane is said to enjoy the support of Zille and a powerful cabal of MPs, while Gana - a key figure on the caucus - has the support of the rank-and-file members.
Elections for the party’s parliamentary leader will take place on May 29.
The DA’s federal executive chairman, James Selfe, said people were entitled to their views on whether Zille should return to Parliament, but the party had taken a decision on the matter.
“Helen Zille has taken a view that she wishes to serve her second term as the premier of the Western Cape. The lists are in and unless she gets elected president, she is unable to take up a seat in the National Assembly until a year has elapsed, because her name is not on the list for those headed to Parliament,” he said.
The list of names for all parties which are sending members to Parliament have been gazetted and was expected to be handed over to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng today.
The names of the candidates who did not make it to Parliament will also be submitted to the Speaker.
The reserve lists are used to fill up positions when a vacancy occurs. The lists can only be amended once a year meaning that if the DA wants Zille, her name would have to be on top of the reserve list.
The resignation of Mazibuko would open the door for Zille to join Parliament if her name tops the reserve list.
While Zille said this week that she had decided to stay on as premier, DA leaders were expected to push one last time on Friday for her to change her mind.
They fear that a contest between Maimane and Gana would divide the party and will plead that, for the sake of unity, Zille, should lead the party in Parliament.
A senior DA source with intimate knowledge of the matter said there was a belief among party members that Maimane was being pushed too fast and too hard to take up the position of parliamentary leader.
“He is being pushed to the detriment of the party and many people believe he should have stayed in Gauteng and consolidated the support there for the local government election.
“There is a sense that he does not have the experience for Parliament and there are more senior leaders in Parliament that are more capable.”
The DA source said people were too afraid to tell Zille outright about their uneasiness of Maimane’s elevation through the party ranks and had instead encouraged Gana to run against him.
“Gana, himself, does not have the experience for Parliament, but it is that or have someone anointed for the position. Gana does not expect to win, but he wants to show them that he must be counted.
“He wants the other candidate to put his ideas forward and tell people how he plans to run the caucus and take it forward in that position.”