Sharna Fernandez

Cape Town - Former banker Sharna Fernandez is likely to be elected as the new speaker in the Western Cape Provincial Legislature on Wednesday.

DA leader Helen Zille met the new MPLs on Tuesday to discuss positions in the legislature for the next five years before they will be sworn in on Wednesday.

Zille is also expected to announce her new provincial cabinet on Wednesday.

Reliable sources close to the DA caucus said Zille called in the candidates she considered for key positions in the legislature individually before speaking to the rest of the party’s members.

She then met the caucus to tell them that Fernandez would be the speaker, Piet Pretorius would stay on as deputy speaker and Mark Wiley would be the DA’s chief whip.

The DA has a clear majority of 26 seats out of the 42 in the legislature, and the party’s nomination is most likely to be voted in if the ANC proposes different candidates.

Fernandez will take over from Richard Majola, former West Coast District mayor, as he is expected to be sworn in as an MP in the National Assembly in Parliament on Wednesday.

It will be Fernandez’s first term in the legislature.

She worked in banking for 30 years until she took early retirement in 2009 after contracting the H1N1 virus.

Fernandez did not want to comment on Tuesday on her possible election as speaker.

“All I will say is good governance is very important and I will pursue that in my work in the legislature,” she said.

Fernandez joined the DA in May 2011 and has been the chairwoman of the party’s branch in Ward 72, Princess Vlei. She grew up in Retreat on the Cape Flats and started as an enquiries clerk, ending her banking career as the acting general manager of the mortgage division of Absa in Bloemfontein. Fernandez lived in North West, Gauteng and the Free State before returning to the province in 2009.

Her deputy, Pretorius, will serve in the same position for a second term. Zille has described him in the past as as “the most knowledgeable of the rules of the legislature”.

Pretorius did not want to comment.

DA MPLs also re-elected Anroux Marais as the chairwoman of the DA caucus.

Wiley confirmed that Zille had appointed him as chief whip. He said one of his first tasks would be to appoint chairpersons of standing committees. “But I can only do that as soon as Zille has appointed her cabinet because 10 MPLs will take up MEC positions.”

Last week, Zille said she was considering splitting departments and merging others.

She will announce her cabinet at lunchtime on Wednesday.

Zille received harsh criticism in 2009 when she appointed no other woman to her cabinet. Besides Zille, there are six other women DA MPLs in the legislature. Among them are former UWC academic Nomafrench Mbombo, former Cape Town councillor Beverley Schäfer and Cederberg councillor Letta Maseko.

Cape Times