Cape Town -
Newly elected DA MP Mmusi Maimane is set to be the only candidate for the party’s parliamentary leader post, but the apparent no-contest effectively hands him the poisoned chalice of leading a divided and brow-beaten caucus.
The repercussions of former parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko’s surprise departure, and the ensuing tit-for-tat spat over the so-called real reasons, have revived sentiments that the separation of national and parliamentary leadership was untenable as it split authority. The parliamentary leader was simply not free to do her or his job, was how one DA insider put it.
DA Helen Zille’s public statements seem to underscore such interpretation. In SA Today, she wrote how she had to step into parliamentary caucus to correct mistakes which were made when her advice was ignored and Mazibuko put up a Berlin Wall. “… I had repeatedly taken responsibility for mistakes made in Parliament, in an attempt to protect her (Mazibuko) and the parliamentary team. That is also a fact, and no one in the know would dispute it,” Zille wrote.
There was active lobbying this week for an alternate candidate to Maimane, the Gauteng DA premier candidate who decided to come to Parliament following his party’s unsuccessful campaign to clinch control in South Africa’s economic heartland.
But, by Thursday afternoon, DA MP and federal chairman Wilmot James said he would not stand for the job. The other possible contender, Makashule Gana, one of the DA’s three deputy federal chairpersons, was believed to be making a final decision only on Sunday, the day before nominations close. It is understood the reasons lobbyists cited for his candidature have not convinced Gana, and he is unlikely to accept nomination.
James said: “Party leader and parliamentary leaders should once again, as soon as possible, become one position. Accordingly, I am not available to stand as parliamentary leader given the current job description.”
Federal executive chairman James Selfe also said he would not stand as his parliamentary and party duties already made for a 25-hour day.
While an official announcement is scheduled to be made after the close of nominations on Monday, Maimane used Twitter on Thursday afternoon to announce his candidacy, and named John Steenhuisen as the chief whip on his ticket alongside Anchen Dreyer as caucus chairwoman.
“Over the coming week, we will set out our vision for the DA in Parliament,” Maimane said. He also tweeted: “We believe the parliamentary caucus must be a place where members are listened to, treated with respect and feel part of a team” and “Parly (Parliament) is our biggest national platform. How we perform over the next five years will be central to whether we succeed or fail in our mission.”
While former deputy chief whip Sandy Kalyan was touted as a possible chief whip, it was Steenhuisen who was named as candidate.
The former DA KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature leader was sent to Parliament after his affair with the DA provincial spokeswoman became public in late 2010.
Steenhuisen on Thursday said “my private life is my private life”, and should be judged for his contribution to the DA in the eThekwini council, the KwaZulu-Natal legislature and at Parliament and he would work hard in support of Maimane’s leadership team.
Kalyan said she had not been available for any electable office: “I’ve done my time… If my party allows, I would like to serve in the Pan-African Parliament. I really enjoyed that.”
The DA parliamentary caucus will also decide on its NCOP leader, a party position without real power, not recognised officially in Parliament.