Maimane mum on DA's sights for SA's upcoming vote

DA leader Mmusi Maimane. (Photo: AFP)
DA leader Mmusi Maimane. (Photo: AFP)

Although DA leader Mmusi Maimane refuses to commit to a number, when it comes to the party's ambitions ahead of the general elections next year, he makes it clear he has his eyes set on Gauteng.

He faces an arduous task, given the battles within his political party and trying to unseat the ANC, to win over the soul of South Africa's economic hub.

Maimane, in a sit-down with News24 this week, discussed an array of issues including; the growing pains faced by the DA, the 2019 polls and coalition governments.

A political party which was once thought to only struggle with race issues has limped from one PR nightmare to another throughout the year, with public spats over economic empowerment policies, diversity, its former leader Helen Zille's tweets, a battle with outgoing Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille, and claims of improper hires in Tshwane by Mayor Solly Msimanga.

'It doesn't even keep me awake at night'

Maimane, who doesn't dismiss questions of a pushback against his leadership, told News24: "It doesn't even keep me awake at night."

Previously, City Press reported that a core liberal grouping within the DA was unhappy with the direction the party was moving in and were consulting with former leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille about starting a "truly liberal party" that could contest the elections on its own.

"Any organisation that grows faces growth pains, some emerge whenever some people feel uncomfortable, for example the issue of diversity, it's important in an organisation, it does come at a price," said Maimane.

He said he could not stop trying to lead and drive people towards his vision because some were "opposed" or others "felt nervous".

"You have got to say come, this is a better route," he explained.

Last month, news broke that Maimane, like his predecessor, was on the candidacy list for Western Cape premier. A decision he quickly withdrew from, opting to focus on the party at a national level.

"The last thing I need as a leader of the DA is to go backwards," he said, while explaining why he even considered running for the position of Western Cape premier.

"Once you start going backwards in any election, it creates a problem because it's very difficult to arrest once you see a decline," he added.

Only party trying to make black people and white people work together

The DA leader dismissed the idea of factions within the party, saying people often coalesced on issues, but added that he, as the head of the party, has never institutionalised agreements or disagreements on issues.

He also claimed that his party was the only one still trying to find ways for different South Africans to work together.

"DA is the only party in the country grappling with this issue… How do black people and white people coalesce and work together on issues and that naturally requires debate as it should happen in the country," said Maimane.

Coalitions do work

"I still believe in coalitions, I think they are the future of SA. We've been here as a country, as an outcome of coalitions and we've got to form better ones going into the future," said Maimane, once again affirming support for coalition governments.

It is through these that the DA was able to take power from the ANC in Tshwane, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay, until recently.

WATCH: Maimane praises Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga

"These governments have stood, as long as they have worked on the basis of what you want to achieve. If you say you want to pass budgets, those governments have done that.

"You say you want to deliver for the people, both governments in Joburg and Tshwane have done an incredible job at improving service delivery and ensuring that there is clean governance, and that is within a coalition relationship," said Maimane.

'Coalitions good for democracy'

He also shared some thoughts on his party's odd informal working relationship with the EFF, which he described as being good for democracy, as the DA had to often lobby the red berets on key issues.

"If you look at global best practice, parties that often have different ideological views work better because they don't feel like they are competing for the same voter base. So, someone isn't trying to destroy another, in that way it makes it easier and that is what the national arrangement is," said Maimane.

But he defended his party's right to stick to its own principles, citing the national debate on land expropriation and Nelson Mandela Bay as examples, where the two differed greatly.

The DA does not believe in the EFF's approach to land, while the EFF pushed for the removal of the DA's Athol Trollip as mayor in Nelson Mandela Bay.

"I think the decision there in Nelson Mandela Bay, when someone says we are going to cut the throat of whiteness, it is not something we can support, something I can never be able to support, we stand for all South Africans therefore it is frankly racist," said Maimane.

He said that was an issue of principle and the DA would rather fall sticking to its principles.

"You must be willing to take your stance, to say we will not move away," he added.

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