DA leaders throw their weight behind Athol Trollip

Former DA leader Helen Zille, left, can forget about support from her biggest ally in her bid for the DA's federal council chair position. / Eugene Coetzee
Former DA leader Helen Zille, left, can forget about support from her biggest ally in her bid for the DA's federal council chair position. / Eugene Coetzee

Helen Zille cannot rely on her longtime ally, Western Cape DA leader Bonginkosi Madikizela, to support her bid to replace James Selfe as the new federal council chairperson.

DA provincial leaders in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Limpopo, and Northern Cape have thrown their weight behind federal chair Athol Trollip, saying he is the right man for the job.

Zille and Trollip will go head to head with Thomas Walters, who serves as Selfe's deputy, and Mike Waters, who serves as one of Trollip's deputies.

This weekend's federal council meeting will be highly charged. Many have billed it as the battle for the soul of the DA not just because of the vote, but because of an organisational report that insiders say recommends the sacking of Mmusi Maimane as party leader and calls for an early congress.

Madikizela has revealed that by the time Zille approached him for support he had already thrown his weight behind Trollip.

"There are people who entered the race very late, when I had already committed to support a particular individual. I am a man of my word, unfortunately I could not be persuaded by other people," said Madikizela. "I had committed to supporting Athol."

Madikizela is a longtime Zille ally, having worked closely with her for over a decade in both the Western Cape and when she was mayor of the City of Cape Town. "Helen and I are very close. Unfortunately, when she approached me, it was exactly on the day when nominations were closing and there [had been] discussions long before then."

Madikizela leads the most influential and important province in the party.

While there are no block votes, with delegates voting as individuals as opposed to voting for a candidate based on a province's position, the votes of Eastern Cape leader Nqaba Bhanga, Zwakele Mncwango of KwaZulu-Natal, Jacques Smalle of Limpopo, Free State provincial leader Patricia Kopane and Northern Cape boss Andrew Louw could tip the scales in Trollip's favour.

John Moodey, the Gauteng provincial leader, said he would also vote for Trollip as Zille and Waters would not get his vote "because I don't agree with their politics".

“I will be voting for Athol Trollip as my number vote and Thomas Walters my number 2,” said Moodey.

“She [Zille] did send me canvassing material. I responded by wishing her all the best in her campaign.”

Mpumalanga provincial leader Jane Sithole and her North West counterpart Joe McGluwa said their votes could still go to any of the four.

Trollip is a known Maimane backer and his win may ensure Maimane's survival.

Maimane is adamant he will come out of the meeting still the DA's leader. Speaking on PowerFM yesterday, he said the council could not recall him.

"Leadership is elected at congress. This weekend is not a congress, therefore the choice to step down or not remains entirely mine, and any leader can make that decision at any point for whatever reason they may put forward."

Trollip told Sowetan he was confident of winning.

"I've contacted every delegate and answered all their questions and I believe I have enough support to win," he said.

Zille said the party has had a rocky road since 2016.

"I never predict the outcome of elections. I just work as hard as I can until the last minute. My support lies all over the country, except perhaps the Eastern Cape which is behind Athol [Trollip]."

Candidates to contest the DA elections:

Helen Zille

Former party leader and Western Cape premier Zille shocked many when she announced two weeks ago that she would be running for the position. She is considered as a front-runner for the post.

Zille had stepped down from her position as party leader in 2015 to pave way for her then close ally, Mmusi Maimane.

Athol Trollip

Trollip is the current DA federal chairperson and former Nelson Mandela Bay mayor. He has a long history battling Zille.

In 2007, Trollip was defeated by Zille when she took over as the party's leader. Four years later, Trollip lost a hotly contested election for the DA's parliamentary leader position to Lindiwe Mazibuko, who was backed by Zille. Many in the party view the contest as a Trollip versus Zille battle.

Mike Waters

Waters is one of the founding members of the DA from Gauteng and one of the deputy federal chairpersons. A long-serving MP, Waters recently lost his position as deputy chief whip in parliament to Jacques Julius during a caucus election after May elections. Waters has been one of the most vocal critics of Maimane following revelations about the leader's car donated to him by former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste.

Thomas Walters

Walters is serving his second term as deputy to Selfe and also serves as an MP. A former Gauteng MPL, Walters now serves as DA deputy shadow minister for agriculture.

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