Cape Town - With Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and former DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko out of the way, the path is clear for Mmusi Maimane to become the party’s new leader in Parliament.
Maimane’s path to power is being treated by key DA insiders as a near-bankable certainty, despite the ugly ruckus that has followed the Mazibuko’s shock departure.
Nominations for 15 key positions in the DA parliamentary caucus close on Monday.
Several credible sources told the Cape Argus on Monday night that Maimane, who was the DA’s premier candidate in Gauteng in the recent elections, would garner the winning number of votes from within the 103-strong voting block. These comprised 89 MPs, 13 members of the National Council of Provinces, and Helen Zille, the party’s federal leader.
Even if Mazibuko had not headed off to Harvard, numerous party insiders said she would have lost the leadership to Maimane.
Several names have been raised as possible rivals to Maimane. These include former DA parliamentary leader Athol Trollip, who was defeated by Mazibuko.
Asked whether the DA could have engineered a way to return him to Parliament, after he withdrew his name from the national list at the end of last year, Trollip told the Cape Argus on Monday night that even if it had been technically possible, it had not happened before the DA had to hand its list of MPs to the IEC. He was destined to remain in the Eastern Cape.
Other potential candidates include Wilmot James, the DA’s federal chairman. But asked if he would stand, James said on Monday night: “Not under the current circumstances where we have two potential centres of power. I am of the view the party leader should be in Parliament as soon as is possible.”
Asked who he would vote for, he said: “Nominations close next Monday and I will see who is standing and then decide.”
However, a source said it was understood that if this “two power centres” situation was due to end, then James would potentially be prepared to stand for the parliamentary job. But it is understood Zille has no plans to relinquish either her premiership nor party leadership.
Some speculation has included the name of Makashule Gana as another possible contender, but a top source described his chances as “outside”. That left Maimane as the frontrunner.
A source said: “The presence of Wilmot James would make it a tougher race, because he is a very senior person, with significant experience. But this last weekend made it tougher for him.”
The reference was to the weekend spat between James and DA head of communications Gavin Davis, over James’s alleged strategic leaks from the federal executive meeting on Friday.
The source said Maimane was always going to be the frontrunner anyway.
“Maimane is obviously a gifted politician, a natural orator, probably the best big-platform speaker the DA has at the moment.
He has managed the large Joburg caucus, which is 90-strong, he has delivered phenomenal election growth in Gauteng, and was at the forefront of the national campaign. So he has a lot of positives.
“Wilmot may point to his lack of experience in Parliament, but I think the caucus will place their faith in Maimane’s positives, not discount him because of any weaknesses,” the source said.
Another said: “Anyway, even if Wilmot does stand, he’s only likely to get Lindiwe’s votes.”
The party’s 103 voters will cast their ballots on Thursday next week for the positions of parliamentary leader, the chief whip, deputy chief whip, 10 other whips, the chair and deputy chair of caucus, and the DA’s leader in the National Council of Provinces.