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South Africa: DA leadership race in final stretch

By Crystal Oderson in Cape Town
Posted on Tuesday, 5 May 2015 11:24

The country’s official opposition, the DA’s Mmusi Maimane and Wilmot James, expressed their views in a 30-minute debate, which aired on satellite TV channel kykNet.

Now it’s time to articulate a future for tomorrow and grow the party

The party holds its elective conference this weekend in Port Elizabeth, where a new leader will be elected.

This follows the surprise announcement last month by the Western Cape Premier and current party leader, Helen Zille that she will step down after eight years at the helm.

Zille is credited with the increase in the number of votes of the party.

However, Zille, a white, had always pointed that for the party to increase its voting percentage it has to have a black leader.

The parliamentary leader and party federal leadership favourite, Mmusi Maimane leads the race, with big regions like the Western Cape and Gauteng supporting the young, charismatic priest.

James is also holding his own, with his intellect and understanding his role in the future of the DA being his strong points.

In the opening salvo in the debate James said: “I have the willingness and the ability and courage to lead DA to new strategic directions, communicating to voters what is needed in the country”.

Maimane said: “I think at this time, DA is the only alternative in this country [and] we have to be the party to communicate the vision for the country. Now it’s time to articulate a future for tomorrow and grow the party”.

Both candidates were frank on racial issues afflicting the country.

“It (race) is still a critical factor, we have addressed the education needs of black people,” Maimane said.

The two leaders, however, had different views on the death penalty, a controversial issue in the country.

Maimane was questioned over comments he made over the possibility of a referendum on the death penalty in a weekend newspaper.

“If the people want to vote on it, the people must vote on it,” he said, adding that he did not agree with capital punishment.

James said Maimane did not understand the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

“The Bill of Rights, which has the right to life … cannot be changed by a vote in Parliament, it cannot be subject to a referendum,” he hit back.

Close to 1,500 party members will elect the new DA leader on Saturday and the winner will have his work cut out for them to ensure the party appeals to a broad range of citizens across race.

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