New Acting DA WCape leader calls for unity

Bonginkosi Madikizela says his win makes him proud to represent a party that "sees past colour"

We have to unite now - new acting DA Western Cape leader

Cape Town – New acting DA leader in the Western Cape Bonginkosi Madikizela says the DA now has to unite and embrace its diversity following a bruising week for the party in the province.

Madikizela claimed an overwhelming victory at the party's provincial council in Worcester on Saturday, beating the four other candidates with 75% of the 142 delegate votes.

He told News24 after his victory that his win makes him proud to represent a party that "sees past colour".

"It has yet to sink in. But what is very clear to me is I'm part of a party that truly embraces diversity. It is a party that is demonstrating it every day."

Madikizela said earlier this week that his fellow candidates were using race to punt their candidacy over him, saying the perception was that Patricia de Lille's replacement "must be a coloured person".

When asked if his win as a black man puts the argument to bed, the 42-year-old said: "Absolutely. If you look at my support, it came across the spectrum. It was really the blue people. It was not black, white or red, it was blue people," he said in reference to the party's colours.

"It was truly amazing and really exciting."

The party has also been affected this week by fellow candidate and DA chief whip in Cape Town Shaun August being referred to the party's ethics committee along with De Lille and a party researcher for allegedly leaking party documents to the press.

Madikizela said all election campaigns can be contentious and involve strain, but that the party's perceived divisions were "nothing insurmountable".

"It's the nature of the campaign. I don't think there are big divisions. That's what normally happens when people are campaigning, but it isn't something that is insurmountable.

"We are all members of the same family at the end of the day, and the past is done and dusted."

The beaten four candidates were August, former Western Cape police commissioner Lennit Max, provincial council member Dr Arlene Adams and dark horse and Cape Town metro member David Langeveld.

Madikizela said he has three plans for the immediate future for the province.

"First on my agenda is now to visit all the regions. We have to unite our people behind a common agenda. That agenda really is to have our eyes on the bigger picture.

"They must understand what it means for us to be in government by 2019."

The party will roll out the province's "rescue plan for the lost generation", he said, in line with party leader Mmusi Maimane's national project.

He also wants to build a team of activists, who can act as "soldiers on the ground", so that the party can take the competition to traditional ANC strongholds in the province.

Madikizela will hold the post for six months, where a permanent leader will be elected on August 12.

The current MEC for human settlements said he did not want to start thinking about the Provincial Congress in August, or about strategies for the 2019 general elections, saying he needs to prove himself first.

"For me to be elected in August, I must do the work now. The work I do now will determine my chance in 2019. I need to hit the ground running.

"I'm humbled and overwhelmed by the faith the party has shown in me. I know it's not a blank cheque for me, because the work starts now."

He said former leader Patricia de Lille had not yet contacted him with a message, but said he is sure she will in all the messages he has received so far.