Cape Town -
Mmusi Maimane, the DA’s national spokesman and one of three deputy federal chairpersons, may be elected the DA’s parliamentary leader at the first party caucus on May 29.
But this could be a blow, rather than a boon, for the party.
He was the face of a reportedly R100 million election campaign as the DA’s Gauteng premier candidate. Now, some party insiders believe, Maimane’s move to Cape Town could be a setback for the DA in Gauteng just when it has gained significant support there.
However, Maimane dismissed this on Monday. “I’m committed to building the brand DA. If I can continue to build the profile in Parliament, that’s not to the detriment of the people of Gauteng,” he told the Cape Argus.
As a Gauteng MP, he would retain a relationship with the province for the 2016 municipal elections. Being the national spokesman from Parliament would also help build the party.
“We competed in Gauteng on the economy, on jobs really, and economic policy is contested in Parliament. I felt I could do the job and serve the party well in Parliament.”
He said he had not been promised the DA parliamentary leader’s job, which Lindiwe Mazibuko quit over the weekend to study in the US.
“Nobody can offer that (position)”, Maimane said, but he would consider the post if nominated.
Over the next two and a half weeks, DA MPs are expected to discuss who should fill the positions of parliamentary leader and chief whip – previously held by the retired Watty Watson. The matter will come to a vote at the May 29 inaugural parliamentary caucus meeting.
But the party could find itself in a pickle. Aside from Maimane, it is argued in some circles, there were no immediately obvious candidates among the now 89-strong caucus, even if many were experienced MPs and carried clout in party structures.
Parliamentary leader is a tricky position, which requires more than being steeped in DA rhetoric and liberal traditions, and this is particularly so when the DA actively wants to diversify its leadership ranks.
Athol Trollip, former parliamentary leader from 2009, discovered this when he lost to Mazibuko in late 2011 on the back of a concerted campaign by to so-called Young Turks.
Some analysts argue that the DA is promoting a certain profile of black leader, pushing aside potential leaders from a rural background in favour of those from an urban background, or favouring a middle-class background over a working-class one.
While DA leadership ranks have significantly diversified, questions still emerge over the party’s ability to handle succession. This will be under scrutiny next year, when the DA holds its next congress, at which Zille is expected to stand aside. In 2012 she indicated to the party congress that this term would be her last.
Maimane’s departure from Gauteng also opens the door for a contest there as he vacates his position as Joburg city council DA caucus leader.
His departure from Gauteng may cost the party its campaigning face, especially since the DA, like the ANC, has vowed to start campaigning immediately for the 2016 municipal poll.
The ANC received a bloody nose in Gauteng: overall its support dropped to just over 53 percent from just over 64 percent in 2009, and the DA gained in all three Gauteng metros.