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Battle for DA's future: Who will succeed James Selfe as fedco chair?

The two factions within the party are represented through the main contenders for the position of federal council chair, Helen Zille and Athol Trollip.

FILE: Democratic Alliance federal council chairperson James Selfe. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – The Democratic Alliance (DA) is preparing to hold its all-important federal council this weekend, a gathering expected to shape the party’s future policy direction and determine the future of its leader Mmusi Maimane.

The meeting was expected to elect federal council chair James Selfe’s successor and discuss the review report that was commissioned to discuss the party’s dismal performance at this year’s general elections. It’s understood the report recommended that Maimane should step down.

One group within the DA wanted the party to go out of its way to appeal to black voters, while the other wanted to reconnect with the party’s white base that was lost to the Freedom Front Plus.

The two factions were represented through the main contenders for the position of federal council chair, Helen Zille and Athol Trollip.

Zille came from the Institute of Race Relations, the same organisation that believes the DA should resist race-based policies.

Trollip was an ally of Maimane, who in contrast, believes race was a proxy for empowerment policies like broad-based black economic empowerment.

The party’s former federal council chair Douglas Gibson said the DA should use this weekend to decide which direction the party wanted to go.

“What we need to focus on is what the party wants to do now for the people of South Africa,” Gibson said.

It remained to be seen whether the DA would go back to what it was or would unapologetically continue to go out of its way to appeal to black voters even through its policies. The election of the new federal council chair would help answer this.

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