Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille. Picture: SOWETAN
Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille. Picture: SOWETAN

DEMOCRATIC Alliance leader Helen Zille on Saturday said she is furiously preparing for the next general elections in 2014, which she has estimated will fall on April 27, marking 20 years since the country ushered in democracy.

Addressing a South African National Editors’ Forum dinner in Cape Town, she said five things were needed for a political party to be successful with voters.

It had to have a coherent political philosophy, strong institutions, excellent research capabilities, performance-based evaluation systems for its staff and leaders, and the capacity to raise money.

The biggest political mistake that could be made was to believe there was internal contestation within one party.

She predicted that there would likely be announcements of mergers, coalitions and alliances in the run-up to the election because parties believed this was a way to secure more votes.

"I can assure you that if there is a new platform established and political parties get together to talk about how they will contest the election, it will be six months of haggling over what systems are used, the processes to use and who gets what position on which list," Ms Zille said.

"We are masters of political alliances and mergers ... some have worked well, some have worked badly, some have succeeded, some have failed but we’ve learnt lessons from every single one of them."

The Western Cape premier remained tight-lipped about former activist Mamphela Ramphele’s future political plans.

The two worked together at the University of Cape Town many years ago.

"Mamphela and I have raised children together, we chat often, we remain good friends and I know quite a lot [about her plans] but I don’t like to speak for other people."

Ms Ramphele was set to announce her plans on Monday, amid media reports she was starting a political party.

When asked if Ms Ramphele would be fast-tracked to top DA leadership should she join the party, Ms Zille said there would be no special treatment.

"If she had to stand for a position, she would have to go through the process like any person."

She said in this theoretical situation, it was likely that Ms Ramphele would naturally be chosen for a leadership position by party members because of her skills and experience.

Asked if she was worried about the impact Ramphele would have on the DA should she start her own party, she said: "No".

Ms Zille said Ms Ramphele’s plans formed part of a long road to a strong two-party system in South Africa, a political "re-alignment".

Central to this political re-alignment was the National Development Plan (NDP), which contained "profound and powerful proposals" that would unblock the political space and create growth.

She said she was amazed that President Jacob Zuma "lost" an opportunity to spend more time on the NDP in his state of the nation address this week.

"His main opposition, the DA, had endorsed the NDP which emanates from his own office. He managed at Mangaung [ANC elective conference] to get a mandate for the NDP, and yet, ironically, when he gets up... he doesn’t say a word about it."

Mr Zuma spoke briefly about the NDP in the National Assembly, saying it was a roadmap for the country to have 100% access to basic services, housing, jobs, transport, education, social protection, healthcare, recreation and a clean environment.

"The achievement of these goals has proven to be difficult in the recent past, due the global economic recession," he said at the time.

Sapa