Maimane steps down as DA leader, Trollip resigns and Zille expresses disappointment
Oct. 23, 2019
Helen Zille has said the party is taking legal advice to chart the party’s way forward.
Mmusi Maimane has confirmed his departure as the leader of the DA, after four years at the helm. National chairperson Athol Trollip, who lost the federal executive chairperson race in the party to Helen Zille, also resigned.
Speaking at a press conference in Bruma, Johannesburg, Maimane said that he had set out to free South Africa from the oppressive leadership of the ANC, and it was his love of South Africa that had led him into politics, despite not being a politician.
He said his vision was for the DA to transform into a party for all South Africans. Maimane reflected on his time as the leader and how he had changed the party to become something that more people could relate to.
Maimane defended his plans for growing the party, and said he was proud of the fact that the DA had taken charge of coalition governments in the important Gauteng metros of Johannesburg and Tshwane.
He said the DA could “never be a party about one race”, and that building diversity should be about expanding opportunities for all people. He said he had always advocated for more black people to join the party, particularly black women, in the interests of creating a more diverse party.
“We’ve made some tough decisions. We’ve fought many battles.” He referenced his differences with former leader and new federal executive chairperson Helen Zille, saying they had remained respectful towards each other.
“I maintain her comments about colonialism certainly did not help the party.”
Zille was looking on sadly while Maimane spoke.
Maimane lashed out at particularly the Afrikaans media for allegedly smearing his name in relation to an alleged scandal about a sponsored vehicle from Steinhoff.
He said he remained committed to inspiring hope, restoring justice, to heal the wounds of the past, break down the barriers of entry for young people into the economy, and remove the ANC from power to create a prosperous united South Africa for all.
“There is a time for leaders to step back and make a sober assessment.”
He said he had concluded that the DA was not the vehicle to create one South Africa for all. He had decided to stay on as the leader of the DA in parliament until the end of the year, and that there should be an early elective congress.
Both Maimane and Trollip paid tribute to Zille’s predecessor, James Selfe, for his 20 years of “selfless leadership”.
Trollip said that he was taking personal responsibility for the DA’s May election losses, along with acknowledging that the blame is also collective.
“The DA is not a home for racists.” He also said, “Mmusi has been treated unfairly by the DA.
“There’s a time to come and a time to go in politics, and it’s my time to go.”
He said he would not “slag off” his political party, but it was time for him to rebuild his life, which would not be easy at his age and with his “complexion”.
Trollip said the ANC was a party in “complete denial”, which was exemplified by Baleka Mbete’s recent shocking interview on Al Jazeera.
Both Maimane and Trollip wished the DA well in its future endeavours.
Zille took to the podium after both men spoke, to say that the FedEx would have preferred both men to stay on until the next federal congress.
She said the party would have been able to have a congress in April, and allow the delegates to make the call on party leadership.
“Nevertheless, Mmusi and Athol came to a conclusion that only they can reach as individual human beings after speaking to their families. So it is with much sadness that the federal executive ceased arguing because as they see it their positions have become untenable.
“We now have a challenge.”
She paid tribute to both men, saying “everybody knows the history of my extensive support for Mmusi”. She said nothing had ever diminished her respect for him and his wife and children. “Politics is a very difficult space.”
Zille said she’d worked shoulder to shoulder with Trollip for decades as colleagues and rivals, but had worked for democracy.
She wished Maimane well with a long career working to create one South Africa for all.
Zille said the party would need to seek legal advice on what its constitution would allow for how to deal with the leadership crisis the party was now in.
Watch the briefing live below, courtesy of News24.
The DA’s federal executive had been locked in discussions in Johannesburg all afternoon in a heated meeting.
It comes on on the heels of Herman Mashaba’s dramatic exit from the DA.
While Mashaba attributed his exit to Zille’s appointment as chair of the party’s federal council, as well as the party’s bullish approach to the province’s coalition government and in particular his decision to work with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Maimane’s tumultuous year and the various battles he has had to face within the party provide a long list of reasons that have contributed to his decision.
Members of the public and political analysts alike questioned Maimane’s presence at Mashaba’s address – at which the DA leader referred to the outgoing mayor as a “friend and hero” – and believe that it foreshadowed whatever announcement the politician is set to make today.
According to professor at the University of the North West Andre Duvenhage, the starting point for Maimane’s decision to step down was a meeting the party had a year ago where there was a strategic decision made by the FedEx to go the ANC way in terms of their political ideology and guiding political principles – thus abandoning the principles that they had come to be known for.
“He went into the election with that and the party suffered in the national elections and by-elections,” added Duvenhage.
“Since his leadership came into being after Helen Zille, factions within the party became more visible and arranged themselves according to racially ideological groups,” he explained, listing the party’s “black caucus” as an example.
The professor believed that a combination of factors contributed to the perception that Maimane under-performed as leader of the party and that the party’s reaction to this pushed him into a corner.
“His stepping down will have a number of consequences for the party and the impact will be more far-reaching than that of Patricia De Lille,” Duvenhage added.
He also stated that we may see a new political group establish themselves under the leadership of Maimane, in the same vein as what he calls “the in-between parties,” citing COPE as an example.
He concluded that the DA was going to take a lot of punishment as a result of whatever Maimane’s departure.
Political academic Dr Dineo Skosana believed that if Maimane did indeed announce his departure, this would be because he was “pushed” into doing so.
“If you look at the past events, Zille fighting her way back into the party, Mashaba resigning, there is an internal contestation within the party. It appears Maimane is caught in the politics of the DA and problems of the party not transforming its policy,” she said.
Skosana added that she expected the departure of Maimane and other prominent black leaders to harm the DA at the polls.
“If you look at it, the party was starting to do well to attract the black voter in areas like Soshanguve, Ga-Rankuwa, you saw certain people steering towards the DA in areas the DA normally wouldn’t attract voters.”
“Black voters are still very suspicious of voting for the DA, not as a matter of race but as a matter of representation,” she said.
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