Helen Zille one of four senior members competing for top DA job
Former DA national leader Helen Zille is planning on returning to the higher echelons of the party, making herself available for the position of federal council chairperson.
Zille, a former premier of the Western Cape, took to social media on Friday to make the surprise announcement that she was contesting for the powerful position.
The job is fulltime and if she wins it, it would put Zille in charge of the DA's day-to-day affairs.
The DA confirmed later on Friday that Zille was one of four people who will compete for the post. The other three are Athol Trollip, Thomas Walters and Mike Waters.
"The DA trusts that this will be a constructive period of campaigning and contestation of ideas between the candidates in line with our values of freedom, fairness, opportunity and diversity," the party said in a statement.
Zille said she made the decision to stand after several top party leaders this week persuaded her to do so. The post is to be vacated by James Selfe at the end of October.
The DA is due to elect Selfe's replacement at its federal council later this month. Selfe earlier this year resolved to quit the position he has occupied for almost two decades to take up the job of head of DA governance.
Zille's unexpected announcement comes as the DA is embroiled in an ugly public spat, with top MPs taking party leader Mmusi Maimane to task after revelations over his rented Cape Town home and that he had been using a vehicle donated by disgraced former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste.
In her announcement, Zille said the DA had been plagued by "turmoil and distress" in the past few months.
"After careful consideration and consultation, I have submitted nomination forms to contest the position of chair of the DA's federal council.
"I did so earlier today [Friday], after being approached by various senior leaders throughout the week. The election, to be held later in October, will be to replace James Selfe who is standing down from the position after more than two decades of service.
"In recent months, the DA has been through a period of turmoil and distress. As a party, it is important for us to reflect, to introspect and to begin the process of reconnecting with voters.
"If elected as chairperson of the federal council, my objective will be to support the leadership in its goal of stabilising the party and getting it back on track. I love the DA, and the values it represents – freedom, fairness, opportunity and diversity.
"SA cannot succeed unless the DA succeeds. I am prepared to work hard and to play my part in saving our democracy," she said.
In a statement on Friday afternoon, the Institution of Race Relations (IRR) confirmed that Zille had voluntarily suspended her position as senior policy fellow at the organisation in the wake of her decision to stand for the federal chair post.
In a note to Zille on behalf of the IRR, CEO Frans Cronje said: "I wish you well at this critical juncture in the evolution of our country."
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