South African anti-apartheid activist Mamphela Ramphele, left, greets Helen Zille, right, the head of the South African Democratic Alliance political party during a press conference in Cape Town, South Africa, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. The former anti-apartheid activist who was close to Steve Biko and was a World Bank executive merged her party Tuesday with South Africa's main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, and will be its presidential candidate, challenging the ruling African National Congress whose popularity has eroded amid corruption scandals and other problems. (AP Photo/ Nardus Engelbrecht)

A fact the commentariat often ignores is there are no guarantees in life or politics, especially with an election looming, writes Mike Wills.

While all eyes are on the train smash at the top of the DA, we might be missing some significant action lower down.

The DA was never going to provide the next president, so who its presidential candidate is matters little in practical terms, but the party is definitely running this city until the municipal elections in 2016 and, in all likelihood, for the five years thereafter.

Already the DA lists for this year’s national/provincial ballot carry serious implications for the future administration of Cape Town, with four current mayoral committee members out of 11 taking the chance to move on.

That represents a big turnover. Last year someone inside the party was stirring big time against the leadership style of mayor Patricia de Lille via leaks to reporters and maybe this exodus reflects that disquiet.

There’ll be denials all round, of course, but it’s not difficult to find off-the-record evidence of frustration among officials as well as councillors.

Much of that is both predictable and inevitable – it comes with the territory of a party that reaches from former Nats to former PAC members and it comes with the territory of running a demanding and diverse city – and, for me, De Lille has been an admirable mayor in many ways.

It’s a compliment that it feels like she’s been doing the job far longer than the three years since the departure of the unlamented Dan Plato, but her idiosyncratic way of operating seems to wear thin on those around her.

Attention to process is not among her strong suits, and some of her recent decisions reportedly have defied the urgent advocacy of respected officials.

The party dabbled with the thought of De Lille being their candidate for premier in the Northern Cape this year where they reckon they have a shot at overturning the ANC.

For now, that idea seems to be on ice and, publicly at least, she’s settling in for the long haul in the council chamber and will need to shape a new mayoral committee, but I have what’s nothing more than a hunch that she won’t last in the position too much longer.

Whether that thumbsuck proves true or not, the inspanning of De Lille and the ID has been a good thing for the DA.

Helen Zille backed that difficult process in 2010 against opposition from within her own party, especially about preferential treatment for newcomers, and in the face of serious doubts about whether two such strong-willed personalities could get along. There were many who predicted the relationship wouldn’t last.

Does that all sound familiar? It’s exactly what happened with AgangSA and Mamphela Ramphele – except in this instance the naysayers were proven right and shout “I told you so” while forgetting their inaccurate forecasts about De Lille four years ago.

A fact that Zille knows, and the commentariat often ignore is there are no guarantees in life or in politics. South African opposition politics is a game of mergers and acquisitions and re-branding – the notion that the DA (which itself has morphed through the Progs, the Progressive Reform Party, the PFP and the DP while absorbing the Reform Party, some Dennis Worrall/Wynand Malan bits and pieces, parts of the NNP, and the ID along the way) will organically grow into government from its existing structural and talent base is fanciful.

It needs to be dynamic and to aggressively bite off potential chunks of voters either in a particular province or nationally.

That means, in football terms, using the transfer window to get some fresh blood and, as any soccer fan knows, not every striker you buy scores goals.

Cape Argus