Political analysts warned that the outcome of the proxy leadership battle would leave the DA battered and difficult to unite and grow. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - As the battle for the soul of the DA rages on at the party’s watershed federal council meeting in Johannesburg, some political analysts warned that the outcome would leave the official opposition battered and difficult to unite and grow.

The gathering is widely seen as a proxy leadership battle ahead of the party’s national elective congress in 2021 at which leader Mmusi Maimane’s future will be decided.

Unisa political expert Dr Somadoda Fikeni says the bitter fallout between Maimane and his predecessor, former Western Cape premier Helen Zille, will be a huge hindrance in them working together should she replace James Selfe as the new federal council chairperson.

Zille is squaring off with federal Athol Trollip, federal council deputy chairperson Thomas Waters and Mike Waters, one of Trollip’s deputies for the party’s second most powerful position.

Trollip, an ally of Maimane’s, is seen as a front runner after DA provincial leaders in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Limpopo, and Northern Cape reportedly threw their weight behind him, saying he was the right candidate to take the party forward.

However, Zille supporters were adamant she would emerge victorious.

As the DA’s 155 federal council members converged on the party’s headquarters at Bruma for the elections, Fikeni said Zille’s ideological orientation might be a stumbling block to a good working relationship with Maimane.

The meeting will also deliberate on the organisational review report compiled by a team led by former DA strategist Ryan Coetzee and ex-leader Tony Leon, which has reportedly recommended that Maimane step down.

Knives have been out for Maimane since the drop in the DA’s election results from 22.23% to 20.77% in May.

This was followed by leaked scandals about his R4 million rented home and the car donated by controversial company Steinhoff International. An internal party probe cleared him.

Maimane later vowed he could not work with any candidate who did not support his racial redress and diversity policies, in what was widely seen as a reference to Zille.

“It will be a difficult relationship because you need chemistry and a level of maturity, but that chemistry has broken down. The perspective they have on the future of the party and the challenges facing the party seems to be different,” he said.

Dr Ralph Mathekga, an independent political analyst, added that Zille’s election would be a liability to the party.

“They will have to state to the nation what this election means for the party and what’s the way toward. It’s not good news for Mmusi. What does it mean? Is the DA going back to its old ways? Zille is an instant liability to the DA,” he said.

Fikeni and Mathekga agreed that the party was at a crossroads over its identity.

Mathekga added none of the candidates would find it easy to unite and grow the party.

“Even with Trollip, questions will be asked. How will he help the DA out of this? Is he not the same Trollip who couldn’t hold together a coalition in Nelson Mandela Bay? It’s going to be a very difficult period for the party,” Mathekga added.

Maimane, writing in the party’s weekly newsletter, Bokamoso, said the party wanted to focus on “building the DA of the future”.

Former DA federal council chairperson Joe Seremane last week called for members to stop fighting and focus on building its structures.

Maimane spokesperson Mabine Seabe said the new chairperson would be announced by midday on Sunday.

Political Bureau