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DA defends decision to cancel public debate for Federal Council chair position


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DA defends decision to cancel public debate for Federal Council chair position

Désirée van der Walt unpacks the DA's upcoming election for a new Federal Council chairperson. (Camera: Kutlwano Matlala. Editing: Nicholas Boyd)

16th October 2019

By: Sane Dhlamini
Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor and Researcher


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Opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA) on Wednesday confirmed that it has decided to cancel a debate that was expected between party candidates vying for the position of chairperson of the Federal Council.

Addressing the media at the party’s headquarters in Johannesburg, DA Presiding Officer of Federal Council Elections Désirée van der Walt said it was important to keep the campaign internal.


“This election is of interest to the delegates. We are not boycotting any media house. This is just an internal election so the campaign should be focused internally,” said Van der Walt.

She said the DA's code of conduct did not promote candidates publicly campaigning against one another.


“In any election in this country, we do not campaign negatively. It is in the best interest of the party to keep the campaign internally for a Federal Council position,” she said. 

Helen Zille, Athol Trollip, Mike Waters and Thomas Walters will know their fate on Sunday morning when the party is expected to announce who will replace the incumbent James Selfe who has been at the helm of the Federal Council for close to two decades.

Van der Walt explained that at least once, during every period of five years, but at least one year before any general election, the Federal Council convenes to debate, refine and update the party’s policies.

At this meeting, the Federal Council will be augmented by all premiers and provincial ministers, all mayors, and members of mayoral committees in metropolitan municipalities and all national and provincial spokespersons on portfolios.

“James has led the party’s strategic litigation, and in the process has indirectly defined the role of the Courts in upholding the rule of law and filled gaps, which the drafters of South Africa’s Constitution did not foresee. I would again like to thank him for his service to the party and South Africa, which he will continue to do, although in a less frontline capacity,” Van der Walt said.

Among the duties of the person elected to serve as the chairperson of the Federal Council is the organisation and administration of the party, as well as developing and maintaining a high degree of efficiency in the party.

The chairperson also implements decisions of the Federal Council and the Federal Executive and works closely with the Federal Leader, the Federal Chairperson of Finance, and the Chief Executive Officer.

The Federal Council is soon expected to apply its collective mind to the report of the Organisational Review Panel which was tasked by the DA Leader Mmusi Maimane to review the party’s ability to build a democratic alternative to the African National Congress.


On Saturday, the candidates will be given five minutes to make presentations as to why they deserve to be elected. Voting will commence on Sunday morning.

She said those who are eligible to vote will be expected to produce their green barcoded IDs, passport or temporal IDs.

Van der Walt also confirmed that the ballot paper was ready and delegates are expected to rank all four candidates for the ballot to be valid.

Zille’s name will lead the ballot followed by Trollip, Waters and Walters.

Van der Walt said any candidate can withdraw at any given time before the voting process resumes.

She said no candidate has been found to be in contravention of the rules so far.


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