Athol Trollip says he supports DA leader Mmusi Maimane because he is a good and strong leader. (Azarrah Karrim, News24)
The DA galvanised around party leader Mmusi Maimane just hours after its federal executive chairperson James Selfe cast aspersions on his leadership.
In an interview with Radio 702, Selfe said it would be up to the party to decide on Maimane's fate.
Shortly after the interview, Maimane held a media briefing at the IEC's results centre in Pretoria were federal chairperson Athol Trollip, a close ally of Maimane's, quelled rumours about the leader's fate.
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Trollip said Maimane had been elected at a party conference and added that he could only be removed at the next party election.
"He led a magnificent campaign. He has my support. He has the support of the party going forward until the next election in 2021 and it's going to be a critical election and we will show there that we can grow again at local government level and take more cities in this country with his leadership," Trollip said.
As things stand as results trickle in at the IEC, the DA took a huge knock. The party lost some of its conventional white supporters to the Freedom Front Plus.
Maimane is the first party leader who has failed to ensure the party's growth since its inception.
Under its first leader, Tony Leon, who held the reigns until 2007, the party won 12% nationally and became the opposition in the Western Cape with 27% in 2004.
Helen Zille took over the reigns in 2007 and ensured the party's growth to 22% nationally.
The DA is expected to slightly drop in these elections. In the Western Cape, the party got 55.3%, which is short of its decisive victory of 60% in the 2014 elections.
Rise in nationalism
However, Maimane equated the loss to a rise in nationalism. Conceding defeat, he added that the party was proving to be a challenge in Gauteng, adding that in ANC strongholds of Soweto, it rose from 5% to 13%.
"No person goes into a tournament or a competition to lose. You go and you win. You go and you work hard. I am proud of what the DA has done. We could have succumbed to populist narratives. We could have succumbed to forgetting our values, but we stuck the course and we have gone backwards. Even though we have lost some votes I can guarantee you that we have held the centre. As a party, we will go back and work to ensure that we work even harder and I will lead," he said.
Maimane said he was proud of the party and added that he would start a 2021 project to lobby votes from the young and old.
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