Former DA leader Mmusi Maimane suffered his fair share of criticism when he voiced his support of DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen after a Sunday Time report revealed that he only has a matric qualification. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency
Cape Town - Former DA chief whip John Steenhuisen and KwaZulu-Natal provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango have emerged as frontrunners to replace Mmusi Maimane.

DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille said the interim leader of the party would be elected next month and the special federal council would also elect the interim chairperson.

Maimane resigned this week following a bruising meeting of the federal council. Athol Trollip, who served as chairperson, also quit.

Steenhuisen told the media this week he had been approached about the position of leader.

Steenhuisen made the comments after he resigned as chief whip in Parliament. His deputy, Jacques Julius, is acting chief whip.

The term of the leader of the DA is linked to that of the chief whip.

Mncwango said he was consulting with colleagues to help him decide whether or not to run for the position that was left vacant by Maimane.

DA leader in Limpopo Jacques Smalle said the party’s federal council would sit on November 17 to elect someone to temporarily lead until the next national conference in April next year.

Mncwango, who took over the provincial power in 2015, told Independent Media that he had been approached by about 20 senior party leaders and ordinary members asking him to put his name in the hat.

“I have not made up my mind because I am still committed to the province,” said Mncwango.

He said his plan was to complete his term, which will end in 2021.

He said he had been approached by individuals from various provinces.

“They are about 20 people and some are ordinary members while some are senior members of the DA,” said Mncwango.

He said among the messages he had received one read: “Hi leader. I think you must go for this position as you are the best person, most principled, you have guts to stand your ground. You are a unifier, and you always show mercy on your enemies. I hope you decide to stand.”

He said besides thinking about growing the DA in the province, he was also thinking about how he would fit in nationally.

“I must apply my mind. As soon as I know what I have to do I will be able to respond,” he said.

He said he was consulting his colleagues for an adviser “as I cannot take the decision on myself”.

“I am also going to be calling John (Steenhuisen) to talk to him because I hear that he is also considering. I must engage with him because he is my colleague from KZN. We must have a discussion about it,” Mncwango said.

He said that despite losing the provincial official opposition status to the IFP, under him the party had grown in the province while it had performed badly nationally. 

“We have grown our support to a point that we increased our parliamentary seats despite the DA declining in other areas,” he said.

He denied allegations of racism saying the DA had contestation of ideas which were mostly about diversity and redress. 

“Six senior people have stepped down from their positions, and only Maimane and Herman Mashaba (former Joburg mayor) are black, and four of them are white. No one has said the DA is pushing out white people,” he said.

Smalle also denied allegations of racism, saying that there was still space for a black person to lead the DA.

“There are capable black leaders, there are capable white leaders who can step into the space.

“If there is a capable person that is going to put his or her hand up and ask me for support and I believe that person has capability I am going to support him or her,” said Smalle.

Politics Bureau