Newly-elected Tshwane DA leader Mpho Mehlape-Zimu wants to win back metro in 2021
Pretoria - The newly-elected DA leader in Tshwane, Mpho Mehlape-Zimu, 38, wants to win back the metro in the 2021 local government elections.
Mehlape-Zimu's candidacy as the DA chairperson in Gauteng North was uncontested on Saturday at the party’s 2020 regional congress in Kameeldrift.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Pretoria News, she spoke about how to ensure that the DA would win a clear majority of votes next year to enable it to govern the capital without having to rely on coalition partners.
In 2016 the DA took control via a coalition with smaller parties including the EFF, but the City was rocked by scandals and the coalition collapsed.
In March, Gauteng Premier David Makhura announced that the Tshwane council had been dissolved and placed under administration.
Mehlape-Zimu intended to hit the ground running and mobilise members of her party to campaign for the DA to take back Tshwane.
“It goes without saying that that is something that we need to correct. It cannot be that we go into 2021 aiming for 43% (what they achieved in 2016). We need to aim for the majority. We need to restore whatever things that may have been lost with the voters. But we also need to reach out to the voters who have stopped voting or have not registered, starting from Monday (today),” she said.
Mehlape-Zimu dispelled the suggestion that her ambition was to become the next mayor, saying she was preoccupied with building a formidable DA, “where people would stop seeing the DA as a racist party but see it for what it is - an alternative political party”.
Her predecessor, Abel Tau, was known to be unhappy with the fact that Randall Williams was selected as the party’s mayoral candidate despite the fact that he was not the regional chairperson of the party.
But, Mehlape-Zimu said she was not concerned about occupying positions because she understood the processes followed by the DA.
“I have no ambition of being a mayor but here is the thing: the DA works according to its processes. You are allowed to put in your name as a mayoral candidate and you then go through the selection panel. It doesn’t matter whether you are a chairperson or just an activist who does not hold any position.
“What this selection panel looks for is: what you can give to the residents,” she said. The mother of two is the first black woman to take charge of the DA in the Tshwane region.
For her to be chosen uncontested meant that there was no room for making errors, she said.
“What I would say is that I am humbled by the confidence that my colleagues have put in me. It is going to be a challenge but for colleagues to say 'this is the person who we are willing to entrust the party, with and the vision of the DA' with' was an honour, she said.
And how would she address the issue of racism and racial inequality, perceived to be the biggest challenge in the party?
She said it was interesting that most of these accusations were levelled by people when exiting the party. However, she said, should racism rear its head in Gauteng North (Tshwane), she would deal with it decisively.
“I hope I was not chosen because I am a woman. And I further hope I was not chosen because I am black.
"I hope I was chosen because of the faith that my colleagues have in me; that I will be a great leader and I will be able to lead this region,” Mehlape-Zimu said.
Her political career started in 2007 when she became a member of Congress of the People. She left the party in 2015 as a secretary-general of the youth formation to join the DA.
In 2017 she was elected as a chairperson of the women’s network in the DA and subsequently became a councillor and the deputy chief whip in the Tshwane council.