A new DA Eastern Cape leadership was announced in East London on Saturday, with Nqaba Bhanga elected as provincial leader.
Bhanga, however, missed the announcement as he was not at the conference venue at the time.
He showed up about an hour after the election results were announced but did not elaborate on where he was all morning.
Earlier, DA staff could not answer questions about his whereabouts, saying they were battling to get hold of him.
During a press briefing, Bhanga said he was “anxious and scared” and expected a tongue-lashing from former provincial leader Athol Trollip who was very strict on time.
Speaking on the sidelines of the congress, Trollip said Bhanga embarrassed himself as well as the party and the national leader, Mmusi Maimane.
“Whatever the reason for him not being here, it was in poor form.
“I don’t know what the reasons were; I haven’t heard from what they are.
“It’s really a pity considering our national leader was here and gave the most visionary speech,” Trollip said.
Bhanga, speaking about the plan for the new provincial leadership for the next couple of years, said they would focus on building rural structures, attracting young professionals to the party and gear up towards the 2019 general elections.
He also spoke at length about his affection and admiration for Trollip, saying he learnt a lot from him.
He also said there was a need to have a dialogue about race within the party, saying South Africa was not discussing the racial question in a “proper and fair way”.
Asked if he believed he was a reliable leader, Bhanga said: “I’m a reliable leader. I have a good track record.
“I apologise for coming late. I’m reliable because I take responsibility for my actions and my work”.
He said he would work with his opponent, Veliswa Mvenya, who lost out on the leader position, saying she had “institutional memory”.
Accepting defeat, Mvenya said: “The DA has won. This is about the DA, not about me.
“I remain within the DA and still have to campaign for 2019.”
She said she would continue working with her constituency and help them to overcome the shock from the defeat.
“Things will eventually come back to normal. My supporters are shocked because they were looking up to me in our target to grow our rural constituency but that is not going to change,” said Mvenya.
Meanwhile, Maimane who delivered the keynote address, spoke about uniting the party.
Maimane said winning Nelson Mandela Bay last year – through a coalition government – had paved the way for the DA to take over the Eastern Cape.
“It is not only our foot in the door in a province where nobody gave us a chance until very recently, it is also our biggest opportunity to show the country what we can do in government.
“And if we wanted a challenge, we certainly got one,” Maimane said.
Speaking about restoring dignity to South Africans, he said the DA governments had distributed 75000 title deeds nationally.
“Talk is cheap. Lots of people can shout and scream about “radical economic what what”, as President Zuma calls it,” Maimane said.
Speaking about racial tensions around the country, and in a veiled reference to Western Cape preimier Helen Zille’s tweets on colonialism, Maimane said: “And our cause is certainly not helped by public discussions and arguments on topics such as colonialism.
“We live in a time of heightened racial tension, the embers of which are regularly reignited by those who stand to benefit from mistrust and division. But we don’t have to buy into it, and we don’t have to fan the flames.
“The DA is a party that unites people… Outside the bubble of social media, our people are not nearly as divided as some would have you believe,” Maimane said.
The rest of the new leadership announced on Saturday are: two deputy provincial leaders Bobby Stevenson and Terence Fritz,
provincial chairperson Andrew Whitfield and three deputy provincial chairpersons Yusuf Cassim, Kobus Botha and Marshall Von Buchenroder.
Maimane said: “Outside the bubble of social media, our people are not nearly as divided as some would have you believe.
“The extreme views frequently expressed on Twitter are not shared by ordinary South Africans. And I certainly don’t share these views.
“I don’t believe that there is a widespread campaign to shut down or delegitimise some citizens as less worthy than others. Sure, some fringe racists believe that. But in the whole, South Africans reject hate and division and just want what is best for their families.
“I think it is incredibly damaging – both to us as a party and to our society as a whole – to persist with this narrative.”