Voting for the DA’s new Eastern Cape leadership got underway on Friday afternoon.
About 500 DA members are in attendance at the two-day congress in East London, where provincial leader Athol Trollip’s successor will be elected.
The results of the provincial executive committee of the DA will only be announced on Saturday morning.
The contest for the leader position is between Veliswa Mvenya and Nqaba Bhanga.
A large number of delegates donned Tshirts printed with the names of their preferred candidates.
The congress started at about 1pm with a large part of the afternoon dedicated to paying tribute to Trollip.
Those who spoke fondly of Trollip, who has been provincial leader since 2002, included national party leader Mmusi Maimane, chairman of the federal council James Selfe as well as provincial deputy chairman Bobby Stevenson.
Mvenya, the outgoing provincial chairwoman, affectionately referred to Trollip as “brother”, thanking him for helping her to grow and for the vital role he played in strengthening the party in the province.
Mvenya said: “You have built this organisation through your hard work and today we have two municipalities in the province. You have won us Nelson Mandela Bay metro. We have councillors in former Transkei all because of you.”
Maimane hailed Trollip as an exemplary leader who never bad-mouthed the party after losing out on the parliamentary leader position to Lindiwe Mazibuko.
“He never tore the party apart,” said Maimane.
Maimane urged members to desist from dividing the party after losing out in internal elections.
Maimane said: “After this congress it must be known that the DA is bigger than all of us.”
Stevenson said Trollip always leads from the front.
“He has the strongest personality that does not tolerate mediocrity. He is a principled leader. Trollip has never been a populist,” Stevenson said.
Selfe praised Trollip for his ability to work with people from different parties.
“Trollip understands the cause DA stands for. He has managed to manage the very difficult coalition in Nelson Mandela Bay.”
DA’s national spokeswoman Refiloe Ntsekhe said Trollip has paved the way for the new provincial leaders.
Trollip spoke at length about his earlier days in the DA as well as some of the difficulties they endured as members of the party.
He, too, urged delegates to be united regardless of the congress outcome.
Trollip cautioned against the creeping ANC culture within DA.
Trollip said: “The ANC’s biggest weakness was accepting everybody in their party. Let’s not allow the enemy in our party.”