Mmusi Maimane: ’Don’t single me out for the DA’s mistakes’
Johannesburg - Former DA leader Mmusi Maimane, who rarely responds to criticism of how he managed the party, on Sunday took issue with incumbent leader John Steenhuisen’s description of the 2019 election campaign and Maimane's leadership as “wishy-washy”.
That election saw the party experience its first general election decline in its history, and Maimane resigned soon thereafter.
Maimane on Sunday also was critical of his former party's flirtation with the ANC before the 2024 elections and talk of a possible coalition should there be a split in the governing party.
In 2020, Maimane launched civic organisation, the One South Africa Movement (Osam).
Steenhuisen told the Sunday Times that the party under Maimane tried to appeal to everybody and ended up not appealing to anybody. Maimane told Independent Media that he chose to respond to Steenhuisen to challenge the inaccuracies in the interview, and to stress that it was a collective campaign and not one run by him as an individual.
“There was no major growth into new markets, and there was a retreat in terms of the base. So we lost on the swings and the roundabouts,” Steenhuisen said.
Maimane responded to this on Twitter, saying: “I usually keep quiet about the @Our_DA because I am a gentleman but I notice that @jsteenhuisen has mentioned my name in the @SundayTimesZA article and as such I am going to clarify matters. In 2019 the DA did not lose because of me, but because of John and @helenzille.”
Maimane then explained what he was trying to achieve at the DA and the challenges he faced.
“To grow as a political party you must be honest with the people about the history of this country. Privilege exists. We have to diversify the benches of Parliament. We have to work on land equity and justice. We have to see people, their pain, and we can’t be colour blind.
“I wanted us to grow our voter base among the middle class and the youth. That requires speaking to them about issues that matter to them. John and Helen closed that gate. As you can see from their present messaging and tactics.
“As a leader I can’t go to a university student and say there is no white privilege, race is not a factor in South Africa. I would be lying to them and they would call me out on my BS. I would be naive to think that voters were not looking at how diverse the DA is in Parliament.”
Maimane said the 2019 election was a party campaign.
“John was in the national management committee and he knows the decisions that were taken, and why. My campaign was to spread the DA to everyone, and this is still what I am involved in."
Maimane said he did not respond publicly when his leadership at the DA was questioned, but 'in this instance I wanted the facts stated and I wanted to challenge the inaccuracy".
Steenhuisen told the Sunday Times that he was willing to work with the ANC as long as Cyril Ramaphosa was president.
“Corridor talk by some ANC MPs suggested that the ANC is due to hold a national general council in May, where it's believed Ramaphosa's detractors could table a motion to oust him,” he said.
On Twitter, Maimane said the DA was almost becoming a faction of the ANC, and that Steenhuisen's comments were an indication of how far behind the party had fallen.
"Today the DA is saying they are open to coalition with some factions of the ANC as long as @CyrilRamaphosa is the president. They are officially out of opposition and are now themselves a faction of the ANC. It’s an admission of defeat. A recognition that they can’t grow."
Speaking to Independent Media, Maimane said Steenhuisen was portraying the ANC as consisting of good and bad, and that talk of a coalition with the good offered no clarity or clear analysis of the state of the ruling party.
“There was PPE corruption under President Cyril Ramaphosa … money was stolen, the education sector, health and service delivery are failing. Who am I to decide between the good and bad in the ANC. Maybe the DA has a list of the good people and the bad people, but I don't have that list. Are they saying that the corruption took place under the bad ANC and the good ANC is coming?"
Steenhuisen and ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe did not respond to requests for comment. Presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale said this was a matter best left to the ANC and the DA to respond to.