DEMOCRATIC Alliance (DA) federal chairman Wilmot James was re-elected to his position in the party’s highest decision-making structure on Sunday, and as the DA steps up efforts ahead of the 2014 national election, delegates have put two young, energetic black men into positions of deputy federal chairmen.
The DA’s new executive will need to guide the party for the next three years ahead of the next federal congress and through the 2014 elections, in which the DA hopes to gain 30% of the vote.
On the final day of the DA’s two-day federal congress in Boksburg on Sunday, national spokesman Mmusi Maimane gained the most votes in the contest for the three deputy federal chairman posts, after facing eight other contenders.
Public works spokeswoman Anchen Dreyer was re-elected as deputy federal chairwoman, and the third post went to DA youth leader Makashule Gana.
Mr James was able to retain his position despite an aggressive challenge from DA MP Masizole Mnqasela.
Mr Maimane said on Sunday : "The DA is not about race, it is a party for all South Africans." Because of the DA, "a child from Soweto can today stand before you as your deputy chair," he said.
Mr James said on Sunday the "promise" was that the DA would win one more province — possibly two — as well as get 30% of the national vote. "The only way we can accomplish this is if we push in the same direction," he said.
DA leader Helen Zille retained her position, which went uncontested. However, Ms Zille said on Saturday she hoped this represented a vote of confidence in her policies, including that of elevating a new generation of party leadership.
On Sunday, she said the core focus of the team would be to accelerate "delivering opportunities for all South Africans, particularly those who remain disadvantaged by our divided past", as well as a "realignment of politics".
Closing the congress On Sunday, Ms Zille said this "realignment of politics is not easy.… We have learned some very important lessons."
The post of DA federal council chairman also went unchallenged and was retained by James Selfe.
Mr James told Business Day in the run-up to the congress he would campaign on a platform of further strengthening the DA through increasing participation with civil society, faith-based organisations and labour unions.
This was needed to present policies that would be of demonstrable benefit if implemented, he said.
This year has seen the DA push its alternative platforms, having conducted a six-week campaign to increase awareness of the party’s newly formulated Growth for Jobs Plan.
Mr James said the DA would also shift its focus to the creation of "second-generation" policies, including those on environmental matters and energy.
He had also been involved in the DA’s drive for a "realignment" of the opposition, presenting the proposal of dual membership such as had been instituted with the Independent Democrats in the Western Cape. This had been rejected, notably by the Congress of the People and the United Democratic Movement, with leadership from both parties expressing concerns of being "submerged".
This role, however, had been transferred two weeks ago to DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, who said on Saturday that lessons had already been learnt through the joint action by minority parties on issues such as the Protection of State Information Bill.