James Selfe under fire as new row splits DA

15 July 2018 - 00:04 By THABO MOKONE
James Selfe supporters say some in the DA are trying to make him the sacrificial lamb for the Patricia de Lille mess.
James Selfe supporters say some in the DA are trying to make him the sacrificial lamb for the Patricia de Lille mess.
Image: Trevor Samson/Business Day

DA federal council chair James Selfe has been accused of trying to curry favour with senior party members as he fights a possible attempt to dump him this weekend.

Selfe tabled a proposal at a federal council meeting, which ends today, that would let provincial leaders serve as full-time members of the panel that selects public representatives at national and provincial level.

Those who are opposed to what they call the "patronage amendment" have claimed Selfe is doing the bidding of provincial leaders to secure their support in case a vote of no confidence in his leadership is held at the meeting.

Several DA heavyweights, including national leader Mmusi Maimane, are said to be unhappy about how Selfe managed the DA legal strategy in its battle with Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille. Those aligned to Maimane have repeatedly threatened to propose a motion of no confidence in Selfe.

Selfe's amendment is opposed by 34 prominent DA figures including chief whip John Steenhuisen; Selfe's deputy, Natasha Mazzone; other influential MPs like James Lorimer and Gavin Davis; and two provincial leaders, Bonginkosi Madikizela of the Western Cape and Joe McGluwa of North West.

In a letter asking delegates at this weekend's meeting to block the proposal, the group said that allowing provincial leaders to be full members of the selection panel would make them "omnipotent in the selection process, with enormous scope for abuse and patronage". 

In terms of the current rules, provincial leaders are only allowed to make representations to the selection panel.

The amendment, as proposed, would make the provincial leaders players, coach, referee, captain and selector, all simultaneously
Letter by opposing group in the DA

"The amendment, as proposed, would make the provincial leaders players, coach, referee, captain and selector, all simultaneously," the letter said. "[It would] enable a provincial leader to entrench a loyal support base by rewarding a network of key lieutenants, regardless of any objective criteria or suitability to serve."

However, the proposal has the support of other provincial leaders - Nqaba Bhanga of the Eastern Cape, Zwakele Mncwango of KwaZulu-Natal, Patricia Kopane of the Free State, Andrew Louw of the Northern Cape, Jacques Smalle of Limpopo, Jane Sithole of Mpumalanga and John Moodey of Gauteng.

Selfe's supporters say a conservative group of white leaders in the party are continuing their attempts to limit the powers of black people in key leadership positions.

"It has been an anomaly not to have provincial leaders serving full-time on the selection panel, particularly in their respective provinces, and it's about time this is corrected," said a DA insider who did not want to be identified.

"So people are opportunistically using this to attack James because they are looking for everything to justify using him as a sacrificial lamb for the [De Lille] mess."

The spat follows one at the party's national congress in April, where Maimane proposed an amendment that would commit the DA to reflecting the country's diversity in its own ranks. Some of the members of the group of 34 said this would amount to a quota system.

Selfe had not responded to questions by the time the Sunday Times went to press.

DA spokesman Solly Malatsi said the party's federal executive had appointed a subcommittee "to work on a proposal for provincial leaders to play a role on selection panels ... consistent with the constitution of the party".


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