Selfe described as a pioneer and a true democrat

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Tributes have poured in for James Selfe, the former Democratic Alliance (DA) Federal Chairperson, who died yesterday at the age of 68, after a protracted illness.

Former colleagues and politicians have described him as a pioneer and a true democrat.

Selfe was born in Pretoria on August 23, 1955, and attended the prestigious Diocesan College, commonly known as Bishops, in Cape Town, followed by studies at the University of Cape Town.

After graduating, Selfe joined the ranks of the Progressive Federal Party, a forerunner to the DA and rose in its ranks becoming its executive director in 1992.

He was elected to South Africa’s first democratic Parliament in 1994 and participated in drawing up the country’s first constitution.

While in Parliament, Selfe served on various committees, specifically those of Justice and Correctional Affairs. At this time, he was also Chair of the DA’s Federal Council, a position he served in for almost 20 years until he resigned from it in 2019.

DA leader John Steenhuisen has described Selfe as a pioneer and unsung hero of South Africa’s democracy.

“He was one of the first politicians in post-democratic history to begin the work of opposing the unfettered power of the ANC majority and to turn South Africa into a living breathing democracy where the opposition took up its role as society’s ultimate watchdog. This vital development cannot be understated in a country where accountability is so worryingly evaded. James set the example for many of us in the DA and we will continue this work for our country in his memory,” said Steenhuisen.

In 2021, Selfe testified before the Zondo Commission about corruption in Correctional Services in his capacity as the DA’s Shadow Minister for Correctional Services.

He spoke of the challenges of Parliamentary oversight, particularly by Committees among others. In the same year, Selfe retired from the National Assembly, receiving tributes from parties across the political spectrum.

DA Chief Whip Siviwe Gwarube says he will be sorely missed.

“One of the things I will always admire about him, is he always saw the value in even younger politicians, people who had not been there as long as he had been. He showed great support, he had an open mind, and a keen mind to understand the political dynamic and so he was not someone who was static, someone who was testing in understanding. He embraced young leaders within the organisation,” adds Gwarube.

The IFP’s National Spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa, “Honorable Selfe was a dedicated public servant having spent most of his life serving the people of South Africa with distinction. His commitment to serving South Africans in Parliament for over two decades will be remembered fondly by all who had the privilege of knowing and working alongside him. Honorable Selfe’s contributions to the opposition political landscape were significant and his legacy will continue to inspire future generations of leaders.”