Nqaba Bhanga named as DA's Eastern Cape premier candidate

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader in the Eastern Cape Nqaba Bhanga is expected to spearhead the party's 2019 election campaign as the province's premier candidate, DA leader Mmusi Maimane announced on Wednesday.

"For the past year, Nqaba has excelled in his role as provincial leader in the Eastern Cape, and it was an easy decision to ratify his nomination as premier candidate," Maimane said.

Maimane added that the party has seen in recent elections, particularly the 2016 local government elections, that the outcome in the Eastern Cape was "of major significance in the country as a whole".

"The ramifications of what happened in Nelson Mandela Bay – where the ANC was unseated by a DA-led coalition in 2016 – continue to reverberate throughout our country, and the recent attempt by the ANC/EFF alliance to steal back the city is testament to the high stakes involved here," he said.

Bhanga was expected to carry the responsibility of building on that and offering the people of the province a realistic alternative to the ANC government, Maimane said.

"Having worked closely with Nqaba during his time as provincial leader here, I have full confidence in his abilities to deliver these results," he said.

Bhanga moved to the DA from the Congress of the People (COPE) in 2014 after having met Athol Trollip the previous year, where they spoke at length about the urgent need for change in the province, and particularly in Nelson Mandela Bay, according to Maimane.

He was elected provincial leader at the DA's provincial congress in East London in May 2017.

Maimane said politics and leadership have always been part of Bhanga's life.

'New generation of DA leaders'

"As a teenager at Port Elizabeth's KwaZakhele High School, he was elected regional chair of Cosas (Congress of South African Students). He would go on to become an ANC youth leader as well as SRC president at what was then known as Port Elizabeth Technikon, which is today part of Nelson Mandela University. It was there that he qualified in public administration and, later, obtained a post-graduate qualification in maritime studies," Maimane said.

Bhanga later served as the national secretary general of the South African Student Congress (Sasco), before becoming the youth leader of Cope.

He went on to become a Cope MP before his encounter with Trollip convinced him to switch to the DA, said Maimane.

Bhanga was born in KwaZakhele, Port Elizabeth, on August 28, 1977.

"At 41 years of age, Nqaba is part of a new generation of DA leaders who bring with them the energy and the vision to rebuild our country after decades of misrule under the ANC. This province and its people mean everything to him, and he has proven himself over and over as a humble and committed servant of the people," said Maimane.

Maimane added that he had full confidence in Bhanga "to not only deliver this message of change to the people of this great province, but also to run the Eastern Cape as a premier who cares, who understands the challenges our people face here, and who can lead a dynamic DA team that will bring total change here".

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