030214. Holiday Inn Express Hotel in Rosebank. Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille during the news conferences following Sunday’s announcement that the alliance between Mamphela Ramphele and the DA had fallen through. 346 Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Cape Town – Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille announced on Sunday that she would be stepping down from the position next month but would remain premier of the Western Cape until her term ends in 2019.

“I won’t be available for re-election,” Zille told a media briefing in Johannesburg.
The DA is due to hold its elective conference next month. 

She added: “This decision has been a long time coming, but I decided on it when the time was right.” 

‘It goes without saying that I intend to complete my second term as Premier of the Western Cape, to which I was elected in May last year. This term is due to end in mid-2019.” 

Zille, who has been party leader since May 2007, said she took the decision last Thursday, mainly because she believed the party would benefit from a fresh leadership team.
”The overriding reason has been what I believe are the interests of the DA. 

“It is essential for a political party in opposition to grow in every election. While I believe we would have carried on growing beyond our current four-million support base in next year’s 2016 election under my continued leadership, I am convinced our prospects will be even better under a fresh team.” 

On Friday, the party’s federal executive was called to an unscheduled meeting, with some members saying it had ”emergency” status. 

Zille has in recent years consistently responded to speculation that she might step down by saying she would only do so when the party finds somebody more suitable for the job.
On Sunday she said she had been overwhelmed with advice about the decision. 

“I was bombarded with different advice. I have been a leader of the DA for eight years now. Sometimes it feels like 80 years, sometimes it feels like eight months.”