Democratic Alliance Gauteng leader John Moodey, who is seeking re-election, wants to lead the party in its quest to take the province from the African National Congress in the "make or break" 2019 national elections.
Moodey is seeking to be re-elected at the party's provincial elective conference due to be held in November.
He has, however, turned down standing as a candidate for the premiership, saying he prefers to be the "general that leads the blue brigade".
"You know President Jacob Zuma is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces as president, but it is the army generals who lead the army and work out the strategy. I am one of those generals; that is where my strength lies," Moodey said.
It could be a heated race after Ghaleb Cachalia, who was the party's mayoral candidate for Ekurhuleni in the 2016 local government elections, announced on Facebook this week that he would be contesting Moodey for the position.
Moodey has already started the campaign to get the party 2.5 million votes to win with an outright majority in 2019 - double its 2014 voter support.
"We are going to take Gauteng, we are going to get the 2.5 million votes come hell or high water and it is the momentum of the Gauteng campaign that will raise all ships to ensure we capture the Union Buildings in 2019," Moodey said.
'I sell hope'
The former unionist, who was once an ANC member, was speaking to News24 in a wide-ranging interview ahead of the party's elective conference.
Moodey was elected provincial leader in 2012, and led the DA's elections campaign that saw the ANC lose 10% support in the 2014 national elections and in the 2016 local elections fall below 50% percent in the three key metros.
He is hoping that those who are disillusioned with the ANC but chose to stay away from the polls in 2014 and 2016 will be encouraged to vote for the DA after "seeing clean governance and delivery of services in the Midvaal, Joburg and Tshwane municipalities".
"I am a strategist. I run my politics as a business, I sell hope."
He said the decline in ANC support in recent elections in Gauteng was linked to disgruntlement over Zuma at the height of the Nkandla controversy. Moodey said while certain things would have changed in 2019 with Zuma gone, the ANC would not have changed.
"The ANC of Zuma, ANC of [Cyril] Ramaphosa, David Makhura, Paul Mashatile is the same ANC. People have had enough of it," he said.
The DA's process for the nomination of premier candidates is also open to non-members. They undergo rigorous interviews by the party's electoral college and are also tested on recognition.
Moodey said the race for DA premiership would start in 2018, following the elective conference expected in April.
"It is open for anyone, you can even self-nominate. It is about the attractiveness of that individual too in terms of brand recognition to become the champion. My job is to chase after the numbers," Moodey said.
'Battle ground' headquarters
Current DA leader Mmusi Maimane was the Gauteng premier candidate in 2014.
In 2015 the party's elective congress elected Maimane to take over the reins from then party leader Helen Zille.
Moodey said Maimane had since "come into his own.
"He is improving day by day and proving his worth and his intelligence and intellect, he has my utmost admiration, it is a difficult task to lead, especially at a federal level," he said.
"Mmusi has shown what he is made of, given the last debacle we had," he said in reference to Zille's defiance of Maimane during the colonialism Twitter storm.
He dismissed continued criticisms that Maimane is a token black face for the party, with the old guard pulling the strings.
"That is something that is always thrown at us. I've been there, worn the T-shirt, and I have the medals and scars to prove it. But it is hogwash. When there is nothing else to break a person down, they start playing that game," Moodey said.
The DA headquarters is expected to move from Cape Town to Johannesburg as part of restructuring the party and bringing it closer to the "battle ground", following a push by Moodey.
Despite friction in the past between Gauteng and headquarters in Cape Town, Moodey said while they would share the building, the provincial leadership would be given space and independence to do its work.Suggest a correction