Johannesburg - The DA is punting itself as the new rainbow party of South African politics, but just five black African candidates made it to the top 27 of its Western Cape candidates list – and that, only after senior party officials stepped in and ordered the promotion of black candidates to ensure greater diversity.
Bonginkosi Madikizela, Nomafrench Mbombo, Nceba Hinana, Masizole Mnqasela and Letta Maseko are the only black African candidates out of the top 27 names put forward for the Western Cape legislature.
Provincial leader Ivan Meyer this weekend admitted that the list of candidates in the province, the DA’s heartland, was even “less diverse” before the party adjusted it and “promoted” black leaders and women.
“We made an intervention when we saw not enough people in terms of diversity were on the list,” Meyer told Weekend Argus on Saturday. “So they (black candidates) have been promoted. It is a much more representative picture. It was worse before.”
He said the final candidates’ list which was released last week had seen an adjustment by 10 percent for “diversity”.
DA leaders familiar with the party’s processes said it was likely that DA premier candidate Helen Zille would form her provincial cabinet from the top 25 people on the list, leading to concerns about a repeat of the “2009-debacle” when Zille came in for severe criticism when she appointed an all-male cabinet, most of them white.
It is understood that Meyer and senior party leaders were asked to explain the lack of diversity at a federal executive meeting of the party in January.
It was the same FedEx meeting where the AgangSA merger was mooted, and the decision taken to make its leader, Mamphela Ramphele, the DA’s presidential candidate. Both the Agang decisions were later rescinded.
As the DA tries to shrug off its reputation as a party of entrenched white and middle class interests, the black African vote is central to its repositioning as a national party, as opposed to one that is only strong in the Western Cape.
Under the direction of Zille, the DA, which garnered 16.6 percent of the national vote in 2009, has pinned the party’s future prospects on up-and-coming young black leaders like parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko and Gauteng leader Mmusi Maimane, and set its sights on a 30 percent share of the national vote.
Zille and her DA “brains trust” also launched the controversial “Know your DA” campaign last year to reflect the party’s contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle.
Zille was not available for comment because she was on the campaign trail. But DA communications head Gavin Davis said on Saturday that while candidates were a factor which influenced voting behaviour, policies and a track record were part of the overall perception and party brand.
“The ANC for example has done itself no favours by fielding numerous candidates who have been involved in corrupt activities,” he said.
The DA’s Western Cape provincial list reflected a “diverse” group of dynamic candidates, but in addition the party also had a track record of “job creation, clean government and delivery to the poor”.
The party expected an increased majority in the province this year, Davis said. In 2009, the DA won 51.46 percent of the vote, compared to the 31.55 percent of the ANC.
But the Western Cape is not the only province where the DA is thin on black African candidates. There is a similar dearth on its list of provincial legislature candidates in Gauteng , a province with very different demographics to the Western Cape. The DA’s top 20 candidates in Gauteng includes only five African candidates – premier candidate Maimane, Refiloe Ntsekhe, Solly Msimanga, Khume Ramulifho and Lebogang More.
And Ramulifho, who is the chairman of the province’s biggest region, Gauteng South, which includes Soweto, is relatively lowly placed at 14 on the list.
But Gauteng DA leader John Moodey defended the list, saying the party’s candidate selection process, which is multi-tiered, was designed to choose people on merit and not promote people based on the colour of their skin.
He said Ramulifho’s position had nothing to do with his competence in chairing Gauteng South, and that he could not be promoted on the basis of an entitlement.
“It’s not about affiliation or association. The process is intended to create a level playing field. I sat in every one of the processes and I ensured that justice and fairness was served,” Moodey said. “The DA has put forward the best candidates to ensure when we win we govern better than our opponents. The list reflects the strength of leadership in the DA.”
Meanwhile, the ANC’s Western Cape list marks the return of some former provincial power-players, including former education MEC Cameron Dugmore, who at number three on the list is a potential premier candidate, along with provincial leader and top candidate Deputy International Relations minister Marius Fransman, and SACP provincial secretary Khaya Magaxa, who is placed second.