Eastern Cape premier candidate Nqaba Bhanga, right, DA leader Mmusi Maimane, second from right, and axed Nelson Mandela Bay mayor, Athol Trollip, left, on January 9 2016
Image: Mark West/The Herald

Former Cope MP Nqaba Bhanga is the DA’s candidate for premier of the Eastern Cape for the 2019 elections‚ party leader Mmusi Maimane announced on Wednesday.

Bhanga‚ 41‚ who was born in KwaZakhele‚ Port Elizabeth‚ has for the past year represented the DA as provincial leader in the Eastern Cape.

In July‚ he told the Weekend Post that rural issues would be a key focus of his campaign to win over voters‚ stating: “The agricultural capacity of the province must be utilised through mentorship and how we infuse science in it. The rural land can use its advantage to grow their own food and to also go commercial.”

Maimane said the province would be a hotbed of activity in the upcoming elections.

“As we have seen in recent elections‚ and particularly in the 2016 local government elections‚ what happens in the Eastern Cape is of major significance in the country as a whole. The ramifications of what happened in Nelson Mandela Bay – where the ANC was unseated by a DA-led coalition in 2016 – continue to reverberate throughout our country‚ and the recent attempt by the ANC/EFF alliance to steal back the city is testament to the high stakes involved here‚” said Maimane.

“Spearheading the DA’s battle for this crucial province‚ Nqaba will carry on his shoulders the responsibility of building on this recent growth and offering the people of this province a realistic alternative to the ANC government.

“There is no time to waste. If ever there was a province that bears the scars of years of corruption and neglect‚ it is the Eastern Cape. Mud schools‚ bucket toilets‚ dry taps and a health system that borders on dysfunctional paint a picture of a failed province that has been bled dry by the corruption of the failed ANC. The Eastern Cape has the highest unemployment rate in the country‚ at 35.6%. If you include those who have given up looking for work‚ a staggering 46% of the province’s people are unemployed. That is 1 in every 2 people. It is a shameful crisis.”

He said he had full faith in Bhanga.

“Nqaba might not have started out with the DA‚ but it soon became clear to him that there is only one party that can deliver the kind of SA our people deserve. He has made the same political transition that so many voters have made too.”

Bhanga moved to the DA from Cope in 2014.

Maimane said: “Politics and leadership have always been part of Nqaba’s life. As a teenager at Port Elizabeth’s KwaZakhele High School‚ he was elected regional chair of Cosas. He would go on to become an ANC youth leader as well as SRC president at what was then known as Port Elizabeth Technikon‚ which is today part of Nelson Mandela University. It was there that he qualified in public administration and‚ later‚ obtained a post-graduate qualification in maritime studies.

“Nqaba later served as the national secretary-general of the SA Student Congress (Sasco), before becoming the youth leader of the breakaway Congress of the People (Cope).”