Cape Town - The battle-lines have been drawn in the Western Cape DA’s leadership race, with the DA MPL Lennit Max confirming that he will oppose the incumbent, Ivan Meyer, when it goes to a vote at the party’s provincial congress in March.
With applications closing on February 13, Max and Meyer said they have thrown their names into the hat for the party leader position.
Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela said he would run for deputy provincial leader and Anton Bredell, the incumbent party chairman in the province, said he would also stand for re-election.
But all eyes will be on party stalwart Theuns Botha, the incumbent deputy leader, to see if he would run for re-election.
Botha is dealing with a serious health issue and will undergo major surgery next week.
He is expected back in the fold only at the end of May.
Rumours about the two-man leadership race has caused a stir throughout the DA’s structures as members discuss their preferred candidate.
Meyer and Max were equally confident of a victory, each saying they were enjoying the majority of support.
The previous DA leadership race saw Meyer, Botha and Bredell being elected unopposed to lead the party in the Western Cape.
But this time the table is set for a gruelling leadership race, with heavy lobbying before the party’s elective congress, which is expected to be held in Goodwood.
Max conceded that “unfounded allegations of marital infidelity” harmed his political career when he entered the DA’s leadership race in 2010, and he failed to make the cut.
“Last time around in 2010 there was an assertive attempt to discredit me. There was a dark cloud hanging over my head and I was powerless to defend myself. But the matter has gone to court and I’ve never been found guilty of anything,” he said.
Max said that after spending more than three years on the back benches of the national assembly, he has taken up his new role as member of the Western Cape legislature while rebuilding his reputation.
“It is difficult to come back from the damage done to my reputation, but I’ve never been found guilty, and as a result I instituted legal action to clear my name.”
And he warned that he will not hesitate to take legal action against anyone who intends using the “unfounded past allegations” to discredit him in the upcoming race.
“It’s an old story, a story I’ve denied from the very beginning, and those who know me will never believe it,” he added.
But he conceded that it could be a close race, depending on who will be in the running.
Meyer, who said he was on a path to help lead the DA straight into the Union Buildings, was confident in his support base.
He said he was sure his track record and proven leadership qualities during the past term would make him the front-runner.
“I have not yet submitted my application, but I will definitely stand again as leader. I have widespread support amongst the mayors in the province, constituency head and the cabinet.”
Sources close to the provincial parliament questioned Max’s motives to become provincial leader, saying he thought it was an automatic ticket to become a cabinet minister or premier once Helen Zille’s term ends.
But Meyer’s critics said Zille herself warned against complacency in the party, and Meyer had become just that.
Another DA insider said: “While he’s busy being Finance MEC, Max has been crisscrossing the province, sharing his vision for the DA with everyone who is willing to listen.”
DA insiders said Max was enjoying the support of a large number of DA members throughout the regions and across the social and racial divide.
“Max has a world of experience in leadership, a people’s person who will be able to fight for DA loyalists, something Meyer has failed over in recent months, particularly with the recent Theuns Botha portfolio-swopping fiasco.”
Others claimed Max and Meyer would not stand a chance if Botha is in the running for the leadership post.