It is sad when a party loses talented people. It is sadder when one has worked for decades to build a party to see it teetering on the brink of a major setback.
Helen Zille and Mmusi Maimane at a press conference announcing her election as chairperson of the DA federal council. Photo: Sarel van der Walt
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The events that have unfolded in the DA in the last few weeks have shown that Zille has more influence in the party than Maimane. In a sense, he serves at her pleasure, writes Ralph Mathekga.
The election of Helen Zille to chair the
federal council of the DA is a development that has become an instant crisis
for the party. The former party leader has become so controversial that even Herman Mashaba finds it difficult to stand next to her.
Imagine Mashaba accusing anyone of being a
weapon of right-wing elements! He announced his resignation as mayor of
Johannesburg and as a member of the DA a day after Zille was chosen as the
new sheriff in charge. He is never short of tantrums and he did not waste time
in dropping a bombshell on Zille.
At issue in the DA is not whether or
not Zille offers viable solutions to the embattled party. It is rather a matter
of where to now for Mmusi Maimane, who has just been rejected by those who
OPINION | Daniel Silke: DA buckles at the knees as Mashaba walks and Zille makes a comeback
She made herself available to lead the
federal council after rebranding herself as a no nonsense defender of liberalism.
Those who supported her return have in the course rejected Maimane's idea of
selling the DA to newer constituents. At this point, it is difficult to
reconcile the two's worldviews.
When she openly associated herself with an
organisation that rejected Maimane's vision by joining the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), Zille stepped onto a podium that
dictates that she leads the DA away from him. It is very telling that the first
strong statement she made was to assure Maimane that she will "stay in
From this it's clear that she understands she has staged a successful coup
against him and the only thing for her to do is probably to defer his execution
until such a time that it can be done. By saying that she will stay in her lane, she
is also passing a message to Maimane not to tempt her to veer out of her lane.
The events that have unfolded in the DA in
the last few weeks have shown that Zille has more influence in the party than Maimane.
In a sense, he serves at her pleasure. This is the reason why he has no choice
but to attempt to renew his mandate by calling for an early elective
It is a big gamble for Maimane; who is
clearly struggling to keep his head above the water in the organisation, which is
beginning to see him as a non-performer. He will therefore be hoping that if
he wins the elective conference, he will be able to use his mandate to become
more assertive in pronouncing his agenda.
But it will be difficult to
win an elective conference with the current state of things in the DA, given
also his personal scandals, including allegations that he lives in a house that
belongs to a businessman. Maimane might survive, not because he is
seen as capable of taking the DA forward, but only because removing him might
trigger a mutiny in the party; with prominent regional leaders in Gauteng
protesting the state of things in the organisation.
If Maimane were to suddenly resign amidst
all this, Zille will be blamed and she cannot have another prominent leader
leaving because of her.
The best way to manage the contagion from
Zille is for the DA to retain Maimane so he can continue driving the message of
multiracialism and help the party to begin searching for a new leader to take
over from him later.
Maimane's tenure should be allowed until
the local government elections in 2021, from which the party should be in a
position to prepare for national elections with a new leader.
- Dr Ralph Mathekga is a political analyst and author of When Zuma Goes and Ramaphosa's Turn.
Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views.The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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