One of South Africa’s few openly gay politicians has announced that he is in the running for the position of head of the Democratic Alliance in Gauteng.
On Tuesday, Ian Ollis officially announced his candidature at a press conference in Johannesburg.
The Democratic Alliance, the second largest party in the country, is set to hold elections for leadership positions in the organisation later this year.
Gauteng is seen as the most important province in South Africa for the DA after the Western Cape, where it currently dominates.
“Shifting the political battleground to Gauteng must be our top priority. It’s time for the DA in Gauteng to stand centre stage. The province is the economic hub of South Africa, and indeed Africa, and I want that power to speak,” said Ollis.
Being the first to throw his hat in the ring, it is not yet confirmed who will stand against Ollis for the position.
Ollis said that his campaign would focus on inspiring the youth, setting up a political school for the DA in Gauteng, enhancing the party’s internal communications in the province, giving a voice to the voiceless and serving new communities.
Ollis, who started his political career as a city councillor in Johannesburg, is currently an MP for the Sandton constituency, Vice Chairman of DA Gauteng and the DA’s Shadow Minister of Labour.
He has been vocal about his support for LGBT equality and spoke at the UN in Geneva backing the South African-led landmark resolution on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which was adopted in June last year.
In October, he led the 2011 Joburg Pride Parade, the largest in Africa, through the streets of Johannesburg.
Mambaonline asked Ollis if he was concerned that his bid for head of the DA in Gauteng might be disadvantaged by his having been so open about his sexual orientation.
“I’m not campaigning on the basis of sexual orientation,” replied Ollis. “But it’s not a secret – people know and they know where I stand. It may affect one or two people but I think that the party is maturing.”
He added that being gay might also have its advantages. “It helps me to understand people who may have been disadvantaged in the past,” he suggested.