The sharks were circling around DA leader Mmusi Maimane after the DA’s drop in electoral support.
However, after a long meeting of the party’s Federal Executive Council (FedEx), DA Federal Chairperson Athol Trollip emerged with a statement: “We would like to state that Mr Maimane remains our leader until a Federal Congress, scheduled for 2021 decides otherwise.
“Any talk of a change of a leadership change before a Federal Congress must be dispelled. As the leadership of the party, at both a national and provincial level, we are unambiguous in our support for Mr Maimane who has led the DA with exemption since the 2015 Nelson Mandela Bay Federal Congress, and his unopposed election in 2018.”
Maimane’s detractors hold the protracted, messy divorce from former Cape Town mayor, and now GOOD leader and soon-to-be-sworn-in MP Patricia de Lille against him, especially as an indication of indecisiveness.
City Press also reported over the weekend that he has been blamed for “imposing” former Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga as the premier candidate in Gauteng.
Furthermore, there is an ideological unease among the so-called classical liberals with regard the general direction the party is taking under Maimane’s leadership.
Maimane seemingly won this battle, when earlier this year, the party adopted as part of its policy that “race is a proxy for disadvantage”, after Maimane reportedly laid down the law.
It is, however, evident that the war is far from over.
While it is unclear at this stage how widespread the mutinous feelings toward Maimane is, a powerful party structure like the FedEx’s statement of “unambiguous” support for Maimane, should stave off an immediate mutiny.
To News24’s understanding, there are at least three reasons why Maimane still enjoys support as party leader:
1. A reluctance to remove another black leader
A FedEx member said this “will do more harm than good”.
After the 2014-election (in which the party saw strong growth) its former leader in Parliament Lindiwe Mazibuko dropped the bombshell that she would not take up her seat and headed to US university Harvard.
The year before, she had a falling out with then party leader Helen Zille about the parliamentary caucus’s support of the ANC’s black economic empowerment legislation, with many believing that this led to Mazibuko’s decision to leave.
The DA’s opponents often say the party represents narrow white interests and only uses black leaders. Getting rid of Maimane now would give credence to this criticism.
2. Collective responsibility
Using a phrase often used in the ANC, there is a notion that Maimane alone is not to blame for the poor election results. The feeling is there were many factors contributing to this.
“As members of the Federal Executive, which controls and directs the activities of the party, and implements the decisions of the Federal Council, we all take responsibility for the outcomes of elections – whether good or bad. That burden does not sit on the shoulders of an individual,” Trollip said.
This is also indicated by the party’s announcement that it will undertake a “review of the organisational structure”, which might mean some party officials, notably CEO Paul Boughey and campaign manager Jonathan Moakes, might not sleep easily.
3. A genuine belief in his vision
There are still many DA members who believe in the “One South Africa for All” vision, and that the party should stay the course under Maimane.
The reasoning is that the recent elections results was a bump in the road and that the extraneous circumstances and current shortcomings which led to the recent results can be overcome.
– FOLLOW News24 on Twitter
Find everything you need to know about the 2019 National and Provincial Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections. Make sure your News24 app is updated to access all our elections coverage in one place.