She’s back: Helen Zille to contest for DA Federal Council chairperson position

Image credit: Flickr/The Democratic Alliance

Former Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille is making a return to active politics.

In social media posts on Friday afternoon, she revealed that she will contest for the position of DA Federal Council chairperson.

She said she took the decision “after careful consideration” and after being approached by “various senior leaders throughout the week.”

James Selfe retiring

The election will take place later this month and the winner will succeed James Selfe, who is understood to be retiring.

Zille said she’s “ready to play her part in saving out democracy.”

I love the DA, and the values it represents – freedom, fairness, opportunity and diversity. South Africa cannot succeed unless the DA succeeds.

Helen Zille

Subtle jibe at Maimane’s leadership?

In what could be considered a subtle jibe at Mmusi Maimane’s DA leadership, Zille acknowledged that the party has been in “turmoil and distress” in recent months.

The former Western Cape Premier said the DA needed to introspect and “reconnect with the voters.”

If elected as Chairperson of the Federal Council, my objective will be to support the leadership in its goal of stabilising the party and getting it back on track.

Helen Zille

Maimane succeeded Zille as DA leader in 2015 and is now serving his second term.

However, he has been under pressure from within his party after its lacklustre performance in the 8 May elections.

More recently, links between him and controversial figures such as Steinhoff ex-CEO Markus Jooste have surfaced.

Maimane battled for a long time to emerge from Zille’s shadow. Her return could herald a new period of tricky dynamics within the party.

The IRR link

Soon after stepping down as Western Cape Premier, Zille joined the Institute for Race Relations (IRR) as a senior policy fellow.

This week, she defended IRR writer Hermann Pretorius’ right to write articles about DA’s politics.

Pretorius came under fire from DA leaders for calling on Maimane to resign and for current Western Cape Premier Alan Winde to succeed him.

Zille has now “voluntarily suspended” her fellowship with IRR following her decision to contest, IRR said in a statement on Friday.

It’s unclear at this stage who the other candidates for Federal Council chairperson will be.

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