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DA's task now is to redefine its role in SA

Democratic Alliance flag
Democratic Alliance flag

The DA should be commended for a successful election of its federal council chairperson at the weekend.

It was a highly contested race, with some of the party's most experienced leaders running for this office. As with all political elections where stakes are high, tensions did run high at times.

However, we congratulate the party for having gone through this democratic process without it being allowed to degenerate into open and violent clashes as is sometimes the case with other political parties.

There is no doubt that the outcome of the election, which saw former party leader Helen Zille elected federal council chair and beating off current leader Mmusi Maimane's preferred candidate Athol Trollip, will have a massive impact on the political future of Maimane and several other DA leaders who have not been seeing eye-to-eye with Zille.

At a press conference where Zille's victory was officially announced, she and Maimane sought to project a picture of a united party to the public. They pledged to work with each other and to respect each other's roles. Whether this is going to be the reality is yet to be seen.

But one thing that is clear is that the DA is going through a difficult period of having to redefine its purpose in a post-Jacob Zuma South Africa. Whereas it may be true that the party lost some of its white voters to the Freedom Front Plus because some of Maimane's policies and utterances were too close to those of the ANC and the EFF, the official opposition will be shooting itself in the foot if it thinks it can win back those votes by backtracking on the commitment to build an inclusive society by supporting policies that are aimed at redressing injustices of the past.

SA needs a strong opposition if we are to keep those in office on their toes. The DA is imperfect, but right now it is the best-placed opponent to the ANC. Its collapse would weaken the country's opposition even further.

Now that Zille has won this contest, it is up to her and Maimane to work out a relationship that would not lead to "two centres of power" within the DA. The sooner the DA holds an elective congress the better because Maimane is unlikely to be very effective unless he gets a fresh mandate from party structures.