There was much pomp and fanfare when the opposition, Democratic Alliance opened its Federal Congress in the port city of Port Elizabeth on Saturday. There was much song and dance as the delegates openly campaigned for the two positions that are up for grabs, that is that of the Party’s Federal Leader as well as that of the party’s chairperson.
Parliamentary leader, Mmusi Maimane and Wilmot James, who up to now has been the federal chairperson of the party, are fighting it out for the position of the Federal Leader of the party. Makashule Gana and Athol Trollip, on the other hand, are eying the position of the Federal Chairperson-ship which fell vacant when Wilmot James decided to opt for the position of leader of the party.
The congress was opened by the party’s Eastern Cape leader, Athol Trollip, who jubilantly welcomed everyone to the congress. He made particular mention of the SABC, whom he said were the only ones that had come to the congress unwillingly. “We especially welcome all the SABC viewers. I am singling them out from all the other media who came here voluntarily. We had to drag them to the court to get them to cover the congress,” he said. This was in apparent reference to the court battle in which the DA had dragged the national broadcaster to court over its refusal to air the congress live on one of its channels. The North Gauteng High Court consequently ruled in favour of the opposition party. He went on to inform the more than one thousand delegates that his party would govern the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolis after the 2016 municipal elections. These sentiments were echoed by the outgoing chairperson of the party, Wilmot James who was the next speaker.
Next on the stage was Hellen Zille, the party’s outgoing leader but not before much fanfare, fireworks, confetti and dance. “I can promise you that that is the last time you will see me dance,” she said when everyone was eventually settled. She went on to explain how much of an honour it was for her to be able to speak in front of all the delegates from across the country, saying in addition that the party had, at times, felt like her whole life. She also extolled the achievements of the party since the country achieved democracy. “We grew from 338 000 votes in 1994 to over four million last year. In the process the DA has become the most non-racial party that the country ever had. “Believe me, we have only just begun,” she said. She concluded, “This congress heralds a turning point not just for the DA but for South Africa. As we approach the 2016 elections – we are knocking on the door. This congress marks the start of a new era for South Africa.”