The DA's poor election results are a temporary setback, DA leader Mmusi Maimane has written in a letter to DA representatives, activists and members, in which he takes full responsibility for the outcome.
Maimane also highlighted the importance of the DA occupying the centre in South African politics and warned against a "period of self-destruction".
Maimane started the letter – dated May 13 – by thanking DA members and activists for their hard work during the campaign.
"As a party, I believe we pulled together and ran a solid operation, motivated by noble intentions. Unfortunately, we did not get the result we wanted and, for the first time in the history of our party, we have lost ground," Maimane wrote.
"This has indeed been a setback, but only a temporary one. We can and must recover. Without a doubt, we made mistakes and many issues should have been better handled. For the sake of our country, we need an honest assessment of why we failed to achieve our objectives. We need to make the necessary changes, however tough that might be, so that we can emerge stronger than before.
"The most crucial thing is that we must continue to stand for 'One South Africa for All'," Maimane wrote.
"We have a moral duty to occupy the rational centre of South Africa's politics. We dare not pander to the left or right; we must occupy the centre."
'I did my very best'
Maimane wrote that he remained "100% committed" to building a non-racial South Africa and that this remained an imperative "stronger than ever".
"As leader of the DA, I take full responsibility for the outcome of this election. I can honestly and in good conscience state that I did my very best and gave everything of myself in the run-up to this election. I appreciate the support of the federal executive and members of the party."
While there are apparently some in the DA who are unhappy with Maimane's leadership, the party's Federal Executive Council (FedEx) expressed its "unambiguous" support for him to continue leading the party until its federal congress in 2021.
Maimane was absent for a press briefing in Johannesburg hosted by party leaders, who announced their backing of him.
Maimane said he would work with the FedEx to "address the challenges".
"I have commissioned a review process, chaired by an impartial person from outside the party, to ensure that we properly evaluate the reasons behind the result. It has been endorsed by the party's federal executive. All aspects of the campaign will be honestly assessed."
'We cannot afford to undertake a period of self-destruction'
Maimane will also meet structures in every province to hear first-hand opinions of what went wrong.
In the run-up to the elections, many analysts warned that several "own goals" by the party could hurt them at the ballot box – notably the acrimonious battle with former Cape Town mayor.
"We cannot afford to undertake a period of self-destruction. We also cannot afford not to undergo a period of constructive change. We have to use this outcome as an opportunity to change what needs to be changed and then we must build from there."
Maimane added that the elections had taken place in a tough context for the DA, over which it had no control.
"It is widely accepted that the ANC would have imploded were it not for Ramaphosa, who enabled his party to escape punishment for grand-scale corruption and maladministration."
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