After a dismal showing at the polls and a host of legal defeats for the party, the knives are out for the DA leader – but he has no plans to step down.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane is ready to take on any challenge to his leadership after the party failed dismally at the polls, haemorrhaging about half a million votes.
The DA’s federal executive will meet tomorrow to discuss how it came to be that the party regressed at the polls in what was Maimane’s first general election as leader.
The DA grew only marginally in the Free State, Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. In the Western Cape, the only province governed by the DA, the party reduced its majority by about 4%.
Heads are set to roll during tomorrow’s meeting, with targets on the backs of federal chairperson James Selfe, chief executive Paul Boughey, campaign manager Jonathan Moakes and the leader himself.
City Press had previously reported on plans to oust Maimane should the party fail to improve on its 2014 win at the polls, where it won 22%.
On Wednesday, it became apparent that the party would not grow nationally. About 500 000 voters abandoned the DA, giving it a meagre 21%.
Maimane told City Press that the past year had been “tough” for the DA and that it had become clear that “disciplinary processes” must be sped up within the party.
This was in reference to the matter involving former Cape Town mayor and now Good party leader Patricia de Lille. The party suffered a series of embarrassing legal defeats, with the blame being placed on Selfe.
When asked by Talk Radio 702 on Friday whether Maimane would remain as the DA’s leader, Selfe said: “I don’t know. That will be up to the party to decide.”
Maimane has been under repeated attack within the party for not being decisive enough, particularly at crucial moments.
His detractors are also blaming him for “imposing” former Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga as the premier candidate in Gauteng.
“The man was tainted. The campaign was terribly bland. It did not animate anyone in the party or outside of it,” a Gauteng leader told City Press.
However, Maimane denied this, saying: “Solly was an outcome of a fair process. We worked hard in Gauteng and are disappointed with the results.”
With the ANC coming in at almost 51% in Gauteng, some in the party believe that a stronger premier candidate would have brought the ANC to below 50%, in keeping with one of DA’s electoral objectives.
City Press understands that as late as Tuesday this week, the party’s internal polls were indicating that it would get 24% nationally.
Some members of the federal executive are said to be discussing the idea of calling for Moakes and Boughey to resign, in the hopes that it would appease detractors and take some of the pressure off Maimane.
A senior leader, who also sits on the federal executive, said Maimane could get off scot-free because of the “incompetence” on the administrative side of the party.
“There are a few people who will begin the fight at the federal executive, but they will probably go for James and Paul.
“There will be questions about their competence. My sense is that people feel there is nothing wrong with the leader or the vision; what is wrong is a lot of internal issues and things that are not properly managed. Think of the losses in court which James never accounted for.”
According to the DA’s constitution, a federal congress – the highest decision-making body, which can remove the party leader – must take place “at least once every three years”.
“The federal congress generally meets at least once every three years, but must be convened at any time by a two-thirds majority vote of the federal executive, a two-thirds majority vote of the federal council, or when requested by a petition signed by at least 5 000 members of the party,” reads the constitution.
Maimane’s allies are currently divided on whether to support him or to let him hang.
“The problem now is who will take over in a way that does not make it seem as if he is being removed just because he is black, but rather because he has just been a bad leader.
“There is the chance that the party may try to return to a white saviour like Athol Trollip or John Steenhuisen, and then it will be difficult to come back from that,” said an ally who is also a provincial leader.
Another ally said that a decision on Maimane’s future was yet to be made.
“I think that at this point, I will encourage him to stay on. He still has a big role to play in the transformation process of the party. He will need some of us to assist him. I think we underestimated both the Ramaphosa effect and the Freedom Front Plus’ capacity to mobilise.”
Those who support Maimane also say they need him to give a strong indication that he will “stay the course” and fight should things get serious for him.
Previously, names which had been bandied about to possibly replace the leader included Msimanga and former head of policy Gwen Ngwenya.
The current favourite appears to be Trollip, who appeared alongside Maimane at the Electoral Commission of SA’s results centre on Friday to throw his weight behind the leader.
When asked by City Press if he had been approached or would consider taking over from Maimane, Trollip responded tersely.
“I don’t know why you want me to do a press conference after the press conference. I stood up there and I made it quite clear where I stand with Maimane. He is the leader of the DA; I support his leadership. I think we have had a great election, thanks!” he said, before storming off.
Meanwhile, Maimane says he has no plans to step down.
“The party holds congresses, and only then can a new leader be elected. I will continue to serve a vision of a nonracial South Africa, a market-based economy, a party that addresses historical injustices.
“We are the only party standing for these and I have led the party to own these. So, that’s the vision which I will carry till the next Congress,” he told City Press.
Maimane added that it was never going to be easy to transform the party, and that its growth with black voters was an indication that this had happened despite some pushback from within.
What do you make of the DA’s electoral performance? Will it or should it be the end of Maimane?
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