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Johannesburg -DA leader Helen Zille pledged on Sunday that when her party meets for its next congress in three years time, South Africa’s political landscape would be fundamentally altered.
Zille was speaking after the end of the party’s fifth national congress in Boksburg over the weekend, where she was re-elected as party leader unopposed.
Party federal council chairperson Wilmot James won his contest with fellow MP Masizole Mnqasela, but votes for the hotly contested three positions of deputy chairpersons did not go entirely according to the plans of his backers.
While incumbent Anchen Dreyer MP was returned and DA national spokesperson Mmusi Maimane was voted in, DA youth leader Makashule Gana took the third spot.
Zille welcomed his election, but James’s backers had been hoping MP Joe Mcgluwa would make the cut.
Results of the elections, which saw 1 466 voting delegates casting their ballots from 6.30am on Sunday, were announced to general jubilation at around 3pm.
Maimane will remain DA national spokesperson and leader of the Joburg DA caucus, while Gana will continue as youth leader until its elective congress.
The congress was designed to supercharge the activists and councillors, members of provincial legislatures and Parliament for the DA’s big push for the 2014 elections.
It has its sights set on winning the Northern Cape and possibly also Gauteng – the country’s economic hub – in the 2014 national and provincial elections.
A constitutional amendment carried unanimously allows for the party to hold its next congress in 2015 instead of in two years’ time, allowing it to focus efforts on winning over voters.
Zille pledged she would spend the next three years working to complete her promise when first elected party leader in 2007 of bringing about a realignment in South African politics.
This would comprise building a non-racial centre on the foundation of a set of basic values: respect for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, a market economy, redress and reconciliation and delivery.
“And you have given me three more years to realise that vision,” she said. “I will strive and work every day to have earned your confidence.”
While the politics of realignment was never easy”, the DA had learned from its mistakes in the past and would not repeat them, Zille said.
The party’s underpinning principles were non-negotiable and would not be sacrificed “for numbers”, she said.
The DA has been in talks with minority parties for some time and has helped launch a multiparty forum in Parliament. Zille has offered dual membership – which brought the ID on board ahead of local government elections – to Cope, the United Democratic Christian Party and the Minority Front.
But this is unlikely to bring voters in sufficient numbers to achieve the DA’s goal of unseating the ANC and entering the Union Buildings in 2019.
Zille said on Sunday it was pointless for people to beg her to “bring the DA here” when what was needed was for voters to exercise their choice and support the party at the ballot box when it contested by-elections in municipalities across the country.
“You can’t govern unless you win an election,” she said. “It’s up to you. Numbers are important.”
She sad the DA understood that making headway as a party required more than “a founding congress, a constitution and a good speech”.
Dubbed the “blue machine”, the DA is setting up networks of activists in wards across the country.
“We are focused outwards, on voters, and not inwards on internal power struggles,” Zille said.
It also had strong structures to mediate where there were conflicts between individuals.
She said while 2014 seemed a short distance away it was a long time in politics, especially when the situation was as fluid as it was in South Africa.
On Sunday, resolutions were passed that committed DA members to learning other official languages as well as the simultaneous translation of future congress proceedings.