Democratic Alliance (DA) Eastern Cape leader Athol Trollip said yesterday he was only focused on growing the party in the province and had not made a decision whether to challenge party leader Helen Zille at the DA’s national congress in November.
The DA in the Eastern Cape will hold its elective conference this weekend, where a new provincial leadership team will be elected. Mr Trollip will be unchallenged.
Speculation has been rife that some within the party are lobbying to remove Ms Zille as leader when elections are held in November. Mr Trollip has been mentioned as a possible challenger.
Ms Zille said earlier this month that party members who believed they could lead the DA needed to openly express their intentions and not do so behind closed doors.
Ms Zille defeated Mr Trollip in 2007 to take control of the party.
Until recently Mr Trollip was the DA’s leader in Parliament.
He lost the position last year to Lindiwe Mazibuko.
Mr Trollip said this week it was “only speculation” that he would be interested in challenging Ms Zille again. He said his immediate focus was to grow the DA in the Eastern Cape and eat into the African National Congress’s (ANC) core support base, especially in the former Transkei.
“Being uncontested comes with more responsibility, I do not regard it as an endorsement of my leadership … the challenge is to grow the party in ANC strongholds,” he said.
In last year’s local government elections, the ANC won all but one of the municipalities in the Eastern Cape, with the DA managing to retain its control of the Baviaanskloof council. However, while the DA failed in its bid to dislodge the ANC in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, it put up a good showing, with the ANC taking the Metro by just over 50%, against the DA’s 40,24%.
Mr Trollip said the DA was the only party in the province that had shown “consistent” growth. He said the challenge was to win Nelson Mandela Bay Metro — which had always been home to the ANC.
“We want to win Nelson Mandela Bay so that we create a base to showcase what a DA government can do, just like we did in Cape Town,” Mr Trollip said.
Independent political analyst Nic Borain said the fact that Mr Trollip was unchallenged in the Eastern Cape would not necessarily give him the confidence to challenge Ms Zille for the party’s top job. “I think Helen (Zille’s) position is safe and anyone challenging her would have to be very cautious … Zille as a brand is powerful,” Mr Borain said.
This weekend’s Eastern Cape provincial congress will also see the two deputy leader positions being contested. Bobby Stevenson and Donald Lee are the incumbents. DA provincial MP Veliswa Mvenya is eyeing one of these positions.
Mr Lee said he was confident of retaining his position despite speculation that Ms Mvenya was likely to oust him.
“People really wanted me to stand and I believe I will win,” Mr Lee said.
Article source: http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/Content.aspx?id=168664