Bay councillor Rautenbach surprise inclusion in Mvenya’s ‘dream team’
The fierce battle for control of the DA in the Eastern Cape kicked into high gear yesterday as Veliswa Mvenya, who is gunning for the coveted leader position, unveiled her “dream team”.
In a surprise twist, it was revealed that longstanding Nelson Mandela Bay DA councillor Gustav Rautenbach – who will likely appeal to the white, conservative DA members – will be running for the chairmanship in her slate.
Mvenya, who is currently the chairwoman of the DA in the province, is set to go head to head with Nqaba Bhanga – a DA mayoral committee member in the Bay – for the leadership position.
The successful candidate will replace current leader Athol Trollip.
Although Mvenya was not present to unveil her team at the party provincial headquarters in Port Elizabeth yesterday, some members of her team personally submitted their nomination forms.
Mvenya said she was lobbied to contest the leadership position and it was during this time that various names of DA members who share a common vision for the future of the party came together.
“We had a number of meetings and it was during those meetings that we put together the team that will hopefully lead and take the province forward,” she said.
The group is made up of individuals who are serving as MPLs in the Eastern Cape legislature, councillors in several municipalities and some are part of the current provincial council.
Rautenbach is set to go up against fellow Bay councillor Andrew Whitfield, who has accepted the chairmanship nomination to run for the group that supports Bhanga.
Insiders believe it was a strategic move from Mvenya to get Rautenbach on her team as he is a well-known politician in the Bay who resonates with the DA old guard.
The Mvenya team will also pander to the “Anyone but Athol Trollip” group that are said to be disillusioned members angry with the councillor candidate selection process in the run- up to the local government elections.
Some believe that Bhanga and Whitfield are Trollip’s proxies.
Other members who will contest with the Mvenya group include Terence Fritz, who is the deputy provincial leader and DA caucus leader at the Buffalo City Municipality and will be vying to retain the same position.
Lodewyk Gallant is another hopeful for the second provincial leader. He is also a councillor in the Bay based in the northern areas.
Mvenya said part of the reason she chose to contest the leadership instead of accepting a managed process was to allow democracy to take place and members to elect who they want.
“I would rather lose a contest than lose credibility. To say certain positions must not be contested is denying the branches an opportunity to elect who they want,” she said.
There were attempts recently to negotiate for Mvenya to be given the leader position and for Whitfield to get the chairmanship uncontested in a bid to have a “unified slate”.
Other members of the provincial legislature who have thrown their weight behind Mvenya are MPLs Kobus Botha and Celeste Barker, who are both vying to fill two of the three deputy chairperson positions.
The third deputy chairman hopeful is Desmond Petersen, a ward councillor at the Kouga Municipality.
Bhanga said he would give details about his preferred team today. – Additional reporting by Rochelle de Kock