Bonginkosi Madikizela File picture: Michael Walker/Independent Media
Cape Town - The DA’s newly elected interim leader in the Western Cape, Bonginkosi Madikizela, has called for unity in the party following a controversial race for the top position in which race-based politics was a constant underlying theme.

Madikizela was elected at a party provincial council meeting in Worcester on Saturday to replace former leader Patricia de Lille, who resigned last month.

The MEC for human settlements is said to have won 75% of the votes cast by the 142 delegates who attended the meeting, beating his competitors, Shaun August, Lennit Max, Dr Arlene Adams and David Langeveld.

Madikizela’s biggest competitor, August, is said to have fallen out of favour as a front runner following news he and De Lille were being investigated by their own party for allegedly leaking confidential party documents which related to a disciplinary report on him.

August and DA councillor Matthew Kempthorne were found guilty of contravening the party’s procurement deals when purchasing T-shirts for last year’s municipal elections.

The race leading up to Saturday saw Madikizela lament the fact there were some members within the party who said the predominantly coloured province couldn’t be led by a black person.

But on Saturday, dressed in blue DA -branded overalls, Madikizela said the results proved his detractors wrong.

“It is a myth to think that a leader of a particular colour will be able to attract more votes from the people of his or her race because, if that were the case, then the DA which was led by Tony Leon, by Helen Zille, wouldn’t have been the second biggest party in the country,” he said.

“There is a lot said about this organisation that you cannot elect a black leader in this province but we showed them we don’t look at a person’s colour, but their character.

“What South Africans need is a leader that identifies with the people’s plight, a leader that will lead with humility and will unite our people.

“I think collectively, we must make sure we embody those values and appeal to our people across those platforms, that is the only way to grow.

“I feel very humbled and overwhelmed that my colleagues have shown faith in me. This is the beginning of a long journey ahead whose foundation was set a long time ago by a number of leaders.

“We have a bigger task at hand. I think celebrations will stop here. What we need to do is continue with our campaign that we started for 2019 because as a party we took a decision that we cannot be a party that is seen before the elections, we need to be a party that is visible and is delivering services to show our people that we care.”

Speaking on the sidelines of the congress, Max, who has lost out three times in his bid to become DA leader, said he had not given up.

“I am very excited about the results, although I knew the national caucus, the provincial caucus and the city caucuses were behind Madikizela and my supporters encouraged me to treat this like a by-election and test our strength for August’s election,” he said.

“And to come in second place against those odds means I am somebody who is to be recognised. I am thankful for my supporters and this is our launch for the August provincial congress so Bongi can’t sleep. Max is on his heels, for us this was an indication especially with those kinds of odds against us.

“We used this platform as a test-run to launch our campaign for August and my team and I are very positive.

“I have learnt from reliable sources that I came in second, I don’t know about the percentage but with the kinds of odds that were against me, I am very happy and feeling encouraged.”

Adams said Saturday’s results only made her more determined to put her name forward again at the upcoming congress.

“I am very pleased for Mr Madikizela, he is a great leader, and I think the DA put the best person forward. Obviously I would have liked to win but this is about the DA making the right choice.

“I am definitely going to stand again for the position because I believe that I can speak for the women and the poor as well as working with students.

I am tired of hearing that our students don’t have jobs and our poor remain poor.”

Political analyst, Dr Somadoda Fikeni said the DA in the Western Cape had taken a strategic decision by appointing Madikizela as its interim leader.

The DA will select the provincial leader in August. - additional reporting by Bulelwa Payi

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