Politics / 24 October 2019, 06:27am / Siviwe Feketha and Bongani Hans
Cape Town - The shock resignations of DA leader Mmusi Maimane and federal chairperson Athol Trollip has left the official opposition scrambling to find a new leader. Some provincial leaders still back Maimane after his resignation on Wednesday.
Jane Sithole of Mpumalanga and Jacques Smalle of Limpopo said Maimane was committed to building the DA.
The party was left leaderless on Wednesday after Maimane rejected pleas from members of the federal executive for him to stay at the helm of the DA, saying he was being undermined and de-campaigned from within the party.
DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille said the party was left in limbo by the dramatic resignations as they left no one to take over the reins of the party, which has been engulfed in a bruising factional battle over its ideology and policies of redress.
“Our constitution makes provision for the fact that, if the leader departs in unforeseen circumstances, the party chairperson takes over until a new leader can be elected.
“This is a rather unusual situation because both the leader and the chairperson have taken individual decisions at the same time,” Zille said.
She said the party’s executive did not select Maimane’s replacement as they did not want to violate the party’s constitution.
“We are taking legal advice as to what the right path forward is constitutional and tomorrow (today) we will convene a federal executive by teleconference to discuss that legal advice and chart the way forward,” Zille said.
Maimane and Trollip’s resignations have brought to three the number of senior members of the party who vacated their positions after Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba announced both his resignation and termination of his DA membership on Monday.
Addressing the media after the marathon executive meeting which lasted into the evening at the party’s Bruma headquarters, east of Joburg, Maimane said there was a concerted campaign within the party to undermine his leadership by those who did not share his vision.
“They don’t share the vision for the party and the direction it was taking.
“There have been several months of a consistent and co-ordinated attack on me and my leadership to ensure that this project fails or I fail,” Maimane said.
Maimane said it included anonymous media leaks that were aimed at muddying his name and integrity, including the scandal relating to his Cape Town house and the car he used which was donated to the DA by disgraced former Steinhoff boss Markus Jooste.
“This cowardly behaviour has put my wife and my kids in great danger as I watched, often in disgust, the pictures of our home being published in the media,” he said.
He said he did not believe the DA was well placed to take the country forward, echoing Mashaba’s statements that the party was dominated by people who did not believe in redress.
“Perhaps the DA is not the best vehicle suited to take forward the vision of building one South Africa for all and therefore it is with great sadness that in order to continue this fight for the vision I strongly believe for the country I so dearly love, I will today step down as leader of the DA,” he said.
Although they were left disappointed, some DA provincial leaders said they were satisfied that Maimane would remain a party activist including leading the parliamentary caucus.
“It is a sad day, but I think it is his democratic right. At least he would still be working towards his vision of building one South Africa for all,” said Sithole.
Sithole said during the federal council meeting on Wednesday that Maimane never mentioned that he was leaving his position.
Smalle said he did not think the party support would dwindle because of Maimane’s resignation.
“Mmusi is still part of the DA, still an MP, is still going to be caucus leader in Parliament.
“You need to understand that his character has been impacted negatively by other individuals, so it is very difficult for him to go out there in the public when there are so many issues against his name,” said Smalle.
Smalle was among a group of provincial leaders, who a few weeks ago, had backed Maimane.
The other leaders were John Moodey in Gauteng, Zwakele Mncwango in KwaZulu-Natal and Patricia Kopane in the Free State.
The other provincial leaders were not available for comment on Wednesday night.