It has emerged that Democratic Alliance (DA) Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela’s withdrawal from the race to become interim leader of the party happened in order to avoid splitting votes for John Steenhuisen, according to three sources in the DA, News24 reported.
Madikizela, believed to be in the faction supporting Steenhuisen, bowed out from the race on Monday.
This leaves Steenhuisen and Makashule Gana as the only candidates contesting the election scheduled for this weekend.
Madikizela said he had been “advised” by leaders in the party to withdraw and focus his efforts on rebuilding trust in the DA in the Western Cape.
All three sources said the “classical liberal faction” had promised Madikizela to lobby support from delegates in his bid to become the DA’s federal leader at the 2020 elective congress.
“People have a right to speculate. Every time, as leaders in government, you will always be confronted with difficult choices. Ultimately, I will raise my hand to lead the party, but timing is everything in politics,” Madikizela said.
A federal council member predicted that Steenhuisen would win the race for interim leader with an outright majority.
The party insider said Steenhuisen was better placed to move the classical liberals’ agenda forward.
“There is no race. It’s almost as if Steenhuisen is uncontested. Gana does not have support. Even with the progressives, he is seen as an outcast.”
Another source close to the party’s leadership added that Steenhuisen was better placed to lead the party, given his position as parliamentary leader.
“There was this narrative driven by the media that the DA would not survive after (Mmusi) Maimane. The by-elections are proof that the classical liberals and Zille are rebuilding. There is also this shift from the Good party members in the Western Cape back to the DA, which has emboldened them. They have a surge,” the source told News24.
Helen Zille’s election as federal council chair led to the resignation of three party leaders – Maimane, Herman Mashaba and Athol Trollip – in what has been dubbed as a “blue week” for the party.
A third party member, who is a provincial leader, said the interim leadership race did not matter in the bigger scheme of things.
“Steenhuisen is well positioned to take the lead as interim leader. Madikizela would have only caused unnecessary tension. I understand why they convinced him to withdraw. The man is ambitious. He also has tea with Helen. He is deep in that circle. It makes sense. It’s a shame for him that he believes Helen will endorse his race next year. History has taught me not to trust anything she says.
“As for us, we lost against Helen. We are still licking our wounds and strategising on the next congress. We need someone fresh and untainted by factions. That candidate has not been identified,” the provincial leader remarked.
Additional reporting by News24