Helen Zille won a second term as head of South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, with the challenge of drawing in more black supporters to test the ruling party’s dominance.
Zille was reappointed for a five-year term at the party’s national conference in Johannesburg today, Jamie Turkington, a spokesman for the party, said by telephone from the city.
In her first term, Zille, 61, boosted the DA’s share of the vote to 16.7 percent in 2009 from 12.4 percent five years earlier. The party won a majority in Cape Town’s Western Cape province, making her the premier there, and took 23.9 percent of the vote in municipal elections last year.
Zille has promoted young black South Africans within the party, backing Lindiwe Mazibuko as parliamentary chief and Mmusi Maimane as spokesman of the party in which five of the DA’s nine leaders are white. That racial group makes up 9 percent of the population and earns on average six times more than blacks, according to a census released by Statistics South Africa last month.
The ruling African National Congress, which led the fight against white minority rule, draws most of its support from blacks and controls almost two-thirds of the seats in Parliament. The ANC will next month hold its electoral conference, with President Jacob Zuma seeking a second term as party leader.
Zille is pushing to unite opposition parties to challenge the ANC’s dominance. In September, she called for a “realignment” of South African politics, urging those who believed in “values of non-racialism, constitutionalism and a market-driven economy” to unite against the ANC’s “populism.” The ruling party’s policies will push the country into the “abyss of absolute poverty,” she said.
Africa’s biggest economy has been hit by three months of mining strikes and downgrades by credit-rating companies. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan last month cut the forecast for economic growth this year to 2.5 percent, the slowest pace since a recession in 2009.