Helen Zille has said the party is taking legal advice to chart the party’s way forward on who should be leading it, but she is effectively once again in charge.
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 from his position.
A number of others are expected to follow suit, particularly other prominent black leaders in the DA.
The DA’s spokesperson, Solly Malatsi, confirmed that the party’s constitution had never foreseen a situation where both the federal chairperson and the party leader resigned from their positions at the same time. “There is a leadership vacuum,” he said, saying that an urgent meeting of the federal executive would decide on how to deal with the crisis. Malatsi laughed off a suggestion from eNCA journalist Samkele Maseko that he would also be resigning.
Maimane said he would remain as the leader of the opposition in parliament until the end of the year, if the party would desire that. He said that there should be an early elective congress.
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.
He said he maintained that 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.”
Damningly, and tellingly, he said he had concluded that the DA was not the vehicle to “take forward the vision of one South Africa for all”.
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. As currently the most senior party member, however, it’s understood that she is currently leading the party.
Maimane’s full statement:
My fellow South Africans,
When I was elected as leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) in May 2015, just over four years ago, I set out to build a strong, diverse, and authentically South African organisation that could remove the ANC from national government and in turn, work hard in government to free the majority of South Africans from the shackles of poverty, indignity and despair.
It was first and foremost my love for this country and a deeply held conviction for justice that led me into the space of politics.
I am not a career politician, and I have never sought to be. I have always only been driven by a vision to build a united, prosperous and reconciled South Africa where all citizens have a fair shot in life and where the colour of your skin does not determine your future prospects.
In order to do so, it was crucial that the DA evolved and transformed into a party that all South Africans could call home. A truly South African party at the centre of our politics. During my tenure as DA leader, I relentlessly sought to grow the party amongst all South Africans – but specifically black South Africans.
I fundamentally believed that if the DA was to become a party of government, it needed to look and feel like a party for all, not some. It needed to belong to all South Africans.
It is no secret that for decades the DA has been seen as a party for minorities only. The majority of South Africans, mainly black South Africans, did not relate to the DA and by extension struggle to trust the DA.
This was not the fault of any one person, rather a consequence of the historic journey of DA and its predecessor parties. However, this needed to change and it required deliberate action.
We began to campaign in black communities to spearhead growth, and I personally led this charge.
We changed the internal focus of the party towards grassroots activism and engaged communities and established branches in new terrain.
Activists were inspired and came on board, and felt a sense of ownership and momentum.
In 2016, we together made history as the DA removed the ANC from government in the country’s largest cities. We formed governments in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay, and worked hard to turn these cities around and restore the dignity of poor, unemployed South Africans through an intense focus on job creation and service delivery.
This was a watershed moment for the party and the country. We more than doubled our governance footprint, from 6.5 million to almost 16 million South Africans living under DA-led governments.
Forming these DA-led governments was crucial to our project and a vital step towards building trust with South Africans who were by and large sceptical of the DA. I maintain it was the correct decision to form these governments.
I want to thank all those who worked hard to bring about change in those cities, despite complex and intricate coalition arrangements.
Since its formation, the DA has been seen as a regional party, with its political powerbase and administrative and organisational headquarters situated in Cape Town. I argued that this also needed to change.
If the DA was to challenge for power, it needed to continue to grow outside the Western Cape and establish a political, organisational and administrative footprint in the country’s economic hub. That is why today we are here at Nkululeko House, the party’s head office in Johannesburg.
During the party’s 2018 Federal Congress, I sponsored the “Diversity Clause”, which cemented diversity as one of the DA’s core values. This was an important step in leading the organisation towards more inclusivity, demonstrating that the DA will never be a party for one race or one language group.
We took active steps to remove the obstacles to greater diversity, and to expand opportunities, particularly for young black candidates and activists within the party. In doing so, we were always clear: the emancipation of black people is not the enslavement of white people. It not an either/or.
In internal elections and our list process, I advocated for more black South Africans, more women, and for greater language and cultural diversity. This was not picking one race or gender over another. Rather, it was aiding the journey towards a truly diverse party.
Make no mistake, along the journey there have been many difficulties. I fought battles with Helen Zille, especially regarding her comments – and the impact of her comments – as it pertained to colonialism.
These sentiments did not help build trust between black and white South Africans, and they undermined the project the party was engaged in.
Building trust and changing an organisation takes time. Yet despite these challenges along the way, we were making great progress.
However, over the past months, it has become quite clear to me that there exists a grouping within the DA who do not see eye to eye with me, and do not share this vision for the party and the direction it was taking.
There has been for several months a consistent and coordinated attempt to undermine my leadership and ensure that either this project failed, or I failed.
This extended to the smear campaign that was run on the front pages of an Afrikaans weekly paper in an attempt to destroy my name and my integrity.
This cowardly behaviour has put my wife and two young children in great danger as pictures of our home were published in the media.
Fellow South Africans,
At the end of the day, the DA has always been but a vehicle to pursue and further the vision. And I am still wholeheartedly committed to this vision.
To inspire hope among South Africans
To seek justice for the wrongs of our past
To restore the dignity of millions
To heal our nation
To break down the barriers of entry into the economy
To create work and meaningful opportunity for all young people
To remove the ANC from government
And ultimately to build one united, prosperous and reconciled South Africa for all.
There comes a time when leaders must step back from all the noise and conjecture, and make a sober and honest assessment as to what the future holds.
I have spent the past few days doing just that alongside my wife.
And in the end we have come to the conclusion that despite my best efforts, the DA is not the vehicle best suited to take forward the vision of building One South Africa for All.
It is with great sadness that in order to continue the fight for this vision I so strongly believe in, and the country I so dearly love, I today tender my resignation as leader of the Democratic Alliance.
I will continue in the role as parliamentary leader until the end of the year, after which the party will go to Congress to elect new leadership.
I wish to thank each and every DA member, activist, public representative and staff member of the DA for giving your all and working tirelessly each and every day.
In particular, I’d like to thank every provincial leader I have worked over the past four years. Thank you for your support and
I’d also like to thank James Selfe as he served selflessly as Federal Council Chair.
Lastly, I’d like to thank my friend Athol Trollip who is here with me today.
I wish the DA all the success in the future under the guidance of Helen Zille as the new Federal Council Chairperson.
In closing, I’d like to assure the people of South Africa that this is not the end of the journey, it’s only the beginning.
The pursuit of building One South Africa for All is much bigger than any individual or political party.
And it’s a vision for South Africa that I will continue pursuing for as long as I have air in my lungs.
The fight must go on.
I thank you