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Three DA candidates who could replace Fritz

DA prepares to elect new candidates to replace Albert Fritz in the Western Cape Legislature and within the party’s provincial leadership structures. Picture - file

DA prepares to elect new candidates to replace Albert Fritz in the Western Cape Legislature and within the party’s provincial leadership structures. Picture - file

Published Mar 6, 2022

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DISGRACED Albert Fritz’s resignation from both the DA and the Western Cape Legislature has opened the door for fresh contestation a year before the party’s provincial congress.

According to DA insiders, three candidates who stand a strong chance to fill the vacancy include Catharina Abell, Christopher Fry and Cayla Murray who are ranked second, third and fourth, respectively, on the DA list.

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Fritz’s resignation came hours after he was fired as the MEC for community safety this week. An external investigation found credibility in the allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Four former and current employees accused Fritz of sexually inappropriate behaviour which included sex from as far back as 2018.

On Wednesday, Speaker Masizole Mnqasela announced that the 62-year-old had also stepped down from the Legislature, leaving the DA with a vacancy in the house where they hold a majority.

Mnqasela told Weekend Argus that while there were no prescripts as to when the seat should be filled, it was up to the political party involved to inform his office of its new candidate who will have to be sworn in.

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The last vacancy was filled nearly nine months after former MEC for transport Bonginkosi Madikizela resigned after a scandal over his qualifications in April last year.

At the time speculation was rife that the party dragged its feet in filling the position to accommodate then Cape Town mayor Dan, Plato who was replaced by Geordin Hill-Lewis after local government elections.

Plato was sworn in as a member of the provincial legislature two months ago. Ordinarily political parties choose their candidates from a list submitted to the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) ahead of elections, but DA insiders said it was not always cut and dried.

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Abell featured on the party’s list from 2019 for Parliament, while Fry is a former City councillor and Murray is the spokesperson for Premier Alan Winde.

Stellenbosch University political analyst Zweli Ndevu said that while political parties decide on who to send to the legislature based on the list, internal party dynamics also influence the decision-making process.

“Due to the time lapse between the submission of the list and the vacancy period, a different person may be sent because of change in needs and situation in the party,” he said.

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“The issue of loyalty to the current leadership takes precedence to most factors. The time frame for the new person depends on the number of candidates and sensitivity of the process to the party. It could take longer if there are internal disagreements on the preferred name,” he said.

While there might be no time frames to fill the legislature’s vacancy, the provincial leadership is anticipating electing a new acting leader in two months’ time.

DA provincial chairperson Jaco Londt said the vacancy would be filled at the next provincial council meeting scheduled for May.

“The deputy leader, Tertuis Simmers, will continue as acting leader until the election,” he said.

Simmers, who would not be drawn into a straight answer on whether he has any ambitions for the position, said he was ready to serve the DA in any leadership position if called upon.

“My term as deputy leader prepared me for the provincial leadership and I have risen to the challenge of assuming the acting leadership unexpectedly and suddenly. Until such time that our party processes conclude for the leadership current vacancy, I will work for fairness and leadership to boldly grow the DA in the Western Cape in any capacity thereafter,” he said.

Mnqasela, who has put his name in the hat for the position a few times, said he was not interested this time around. “I’m not going to stand, I am not interested and have a role to play where I am. We have to (focus) on winning the 2024 elections, have to excite the leadership and unify the party to a point where we are focused on the upcoming elections.”

“In my view no election should take place until we get to the actual provincial congress next year. For the sake of unity with purpose, we should allow the current acting leader to continue until congress,” he said.

However, Ndevu said the party would have to elect a new acting leader to avoid further instability in the province or move the congress forward to elect a new leadership.

“The party would be worried about the situation that supporters of Fritz would not be happy with an interim arrangement, but a situation where they would have a say on the leadership through (an) election,” he added.Party insiders say those interested in the position will be vying for endorsements before they make their intentions clear. “It is going to be a very interesting time, Bongi was a favourite for a very long time. He was elected to the leader position three times since 2017 when he replaced Patricia de Lille, and Fritz was his running mate,” said an insider.

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