DA Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela's withdrawal in the race to become interim leader of the party was done in order to avoid splitting votes for John Steenhuisen, three sources in the DA have told News24.
Madikizela, who is believed to be in the faction supporting Steenhuisen, bowed out from the race on Monday, News24 revealed.
This leaves Steenhuisen and Makashule Gana as the only candidates contesting the election, which will take place this weekend.
READ | Bonginkosi Madikizela pulls out of DA leadership race
Speaking to News24, Madikizela said he had been advised by leaders in the party to withdraw and focus his efforts on rebuilding trust in the DA in the Western Cape.
All three sources said the "classical liberal faction" had promised Madikizela to lobby support from delegates in his bid to become the DA's federal leader at the 2020 elective congress.
"People have a right to speculate. Every time, as leaders in government, you will always be confronted with difficult choices. Ultimately, I will raise my hand to lead the party, but timing is everything in politics," Madikizela said.
A federal council member who spoke to News24 predicted that Steenhuisen would win the race for interim leader with an outright majority. The party insider said Steenhuisen was better placed to move the classical liberals' agenda forward.
"There is no race. It's almost as if Steenhuisen is uncontested. Gana does not have support. Even with the progressives, he is seen as an outcast."
Another source close to the party's leadership added that Steenhuisen was better placed to lead the party, given his position as parliamentary leader.
'He also has tea with Helen'
"There was this narrative driven by the media that the DA would not survive after (Mmusi) Maimane. The by-elections are proof that the classical liberals and Zille are rebuilding. There is also this shift from the Good party members in the Western Cape back to the DA, which has emboldened them. They have a surge.
"Given how the votes went in the federal council elections, they have the numbers too. Steenhuisen is better placed than Madikizela to drive the party's agenda forward. To split a vote could have caused another problem. It's better that we all vote for one candidate," the source said.
Zille's election as federal council chair led to the resignation of three party leaders - Maimane, Herman Mashaba and Athol Trollip - in what has been dubbed as a "blue week" for the party.
A third party member, who is a provincial leader, said the interim leadership race did not matter in the bigger scheme of things.
"Steenhuisen is well positioned to take the lead as interim leader. Madikizela would have only caused unnecessary tension. I understand why they convinced him to withdraw. The man is ambitious. He also has tea with Helen. He is deep in that circle. It makes sense. It's a shame for him that he believes Helen will endorse his race next year. History has taught me not to trust anything she says.
"As for us, we lost against Helen. We are still licking our wounds and strategising on the next congress. We need someone fresh and untainted by factions. That candidate has not been identified," the provincial leader remarked.