09/06/09. James Selfe from the DA at the Pretoria High Court yesterday. Picture: Damaris Helwig

Pretoria - The DA has launched a major recruitment drive before elections next year to attract members - and even non-members - to apply for positions as MPs or MPLs and other public representative positions in future DA-led provincial and municipal governments.

DA federal executive chairman James Selfe said the campaign, launched over the weekend, aimed to set up a database of prospective leaders in the spirit of the party’s “open opportunity” philosophy, and did not mean it was adopting a system of “cadre deployment”.

“We’re inviting anybody from the public who has an interest to be our candidate to apply,” he said, adding that other internal processes for appointing representatives would continue.

The party’s Young Leaders Programme and Young Professionals Network, as well as other “political and operational structures” were already in place, but it wanted to “extend opportunities to all South Africans” who shared its values.

Selfe said “information sessions” on what was required of MPs or MPLs would be held, including educating candidates about what the DA stood for.

People would then be invited to apply, and a shortlist created, which would enable new recruits to “compete more freely” with incumbents as the party was on “a search for really, really good people”.

While the DA still had a “big mountain to climb” in terms of “electoral objectives” - the party hopes to attract a significant portion of the “born free” vote during next year’s national and provincial elections - it expected to be in government in several more provinces.

Selfe said candidates who did not make the cut to be MPs or MPLs after next year’s elections could be considered for positions as councillors after municipal elections set to take place in 2016.

Selfe said the DA, which has refused to release membership statistics in the past, was more interested in growing its “activist” base than its membership numbers.

“Activists” would include people prepared to go out and mobilise and talk to potential DA voters - and who would do so “willingly and without expecting payment”.

Membership figures excluded people who could not be card-carrying members, he said.

These included public servants, such as members of the police or the defence force, who he said could not be members of political parties, as well as people who worked in the “corporate environment” where membership of a political party was “frowned upon”.

“In the corporate environment there is an unstated but real fear that one should not irritate or offend the government,” he said.

He cited the example of FNB, which had come in for criticism for a series of “innocuous adverts” criticising the government.

Meanwhile, speaking to the SA National Editors’ Forum in Cape Town at the weekend, DA leader Helen Zille predicted next year’s general elections would take place on April 27, commemorating 20 years of democracy.

Sapa reported her as saying five things were needed for a political party to gain voters: “a coherent political philosophy, strong institutions, excellent research capabilities, performance-based evaluation systems for its staff and leaders and capacity to raise money”.

Political Bureau