DA shows its colours

26 July 2010 - 00:27 By Michael Hamlyn, I-Net Bridge

At the end of their two-day conference, delegates at the Democratic Alliance's federal congress gave the public a glimpse of what lies under their liberal clothing: they failed to elect a single African candidate to any of the three posts as deputy federal chairman of the party.

Wilmot James was elected unopposed as federal chairman, replacing Joe Seremane, who goes into retirement.

Anchen Dreyer, a white Afrikaans woman from Gauteng, Dianne Kohler Barnard, a white woman from KwaZulu-Natal and Ivan Meyer, who is coloured and Western Cape social development MEC, were elected as James's deputies.

Among the six who were rejected by the delegates were one white woman, one coloured man and four senior Africans - Sizwe Nchunu, the deputy party leader in KwaZulu-Natal, Sej Motau, an MP, Khume Ramulifho, who has just left the post of DA youth leader, and Bonginkosi Madikizela, the Western Cape's housing MEC.

"The fault is not with the party leadership," said one prominent member of the party.

"The people you should blame are the rank and file DA members, many of whom came from the National Party under Marthinus van Schalkwyk's leadership, but stayed on after he left to join the ANC."

Despite having heard the result of the election, party leader Helen Zille, premier of the Western Cape, said in her address closing the congress that no complex plural society had ever been able to transcend the racial barrier, but "we shall be the first".

Zille was so confident of this that she identified a major "tipping point" in the near political future among black voters as they learned to trust the DA.

"Many analysts say we shall never build a new majority," she said. "We will show them, won't we?"