Mmusi Maimane has thus far proven himself to be a leader that South Africa needs to bring to life Mandela’s vision. Picture: :Phando Jikelo/African News Agency/ANA
In the opinion piece “Mmusi Maimane has passed his leadership litmus test
,” I assert that an internecine DA versus Zille matter was a blessing in disguise for DA leader Mmusi Maimane on two accounts: firstly, to come out of Western Cape Premier Helen Zille’s shadow and to stamp his authority, and secondly, to declare a war on racism within the party.

The DA had hauled its former leader before a disciplinary hearing for her assertion that not every aspect of colonialism was bad. In the end, the parties reached an amicable settlement, as part of which the DA limited Zille’s role in the party.

Henceforth, Maimane has been on a fervent drive to further diversify and modernise the party to reflect the country’s demographics, not only in Parliament, which is predominantly white, while black DA members are now in the majority, but also across party structures. At the 2018 federal congress, the DA inserted a diversity clause in its constitution to that effect.

A month later, Maimane has come under fire from his white conservative counterparts - including DA chief whip John Steenhuisen and DA federal executive deputy chairperson Natasha Mazzone - within the party over his Freedom Day speech in Soshanguve, Tshwane, where he spoke out against white privilege, which borders on racism and remains largely intact over two decades of democracy. Steenhuisen fervently opposed the diversity clause.

Meanwhile, Mazonne seems to suffer from Zille’s parental poverty excuse. Every time Zille comes under fire over a racial issue, she tells us how her refugee father worked hard for her white privilege. Mazonne said the same about her dark-skinned father.

Their excuse fits into the one often proffered by white born-frees about an affirmative action and other legislative measures aimed at redressing colonialism and apartheid vestiges, while they continue to enjoy white privilege at the expense of their black born-free counterparts, thanks to the ANC.

Mazonne and her fellow white conservatives should understand that Maimane wants to build a South Africa, as envisaged by former president Nelson Mandela, “in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities”.

He cannot do that without breaking down a wall that divides South Africa as “two nations in one,” as characterised by Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki.

Ironically, the DA also characterises South Africa as “two nations in one,” namely economic insiders and economic outsiders. Mazzone, Steenhuisen and Zille are part of the white minority, a substantial majority of whom are economic insiders who own and control the means of production.

In contrast, the black majority, who constitute over 30 million people living in destitution, are economic outsiders - that is, locked outside the mainstream economy.

The DA v Zille matter also presented the DA with an opportunity to devise a dispute resolution mechanism (DRM) to address two phases of factionalism it is entangled in, co-operation and competition, on which the diversity clause centres.

It failed to seize that opportunity. As a result, a melodramatic (former) Cape Town executive mayor Patricia de Lille matter haunts it.

To start with, the non-provision of an accountability clause - generally dubbed the “De Lille clause” - in its constitution did not deter the DA from removing De Lille as mayor.

In the DA v De Lille matter, the clause would have served as the means to bypass a disciplinary hearing, a democratic process to afford both parties an opportunity to state their sides.

A diverse party such as the DA should have the DRM. A minor dispute may intensify a degree of factionalism within the party, depending on figures embroiled in it. De Lille’s matter is best suited for the DRM, not a disciplinary committee (DC), which should serve as a last resort for incorrigible offenders.

Back to Maimane. He has passed his leadership litmus test.

Although Maimane and his EFF counterpart, Julius Malema, who are in their late 30s, still have much to learn to become great leaders, he has thus far proven himself to be a leader that South Africa needs to bring to life Mandela’s vision.

He possesses the three leadership characteristics of admired leaders; honesty, vision and inspiration, which Barry Posner and James Kouzes enumerate in the book Credibility. Unlike the ANC and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Maimane is honest about and remains true to his vision, despite coming under fire from white conservatives who hide behind a white voter alienation to preserve their white privilege at the expense of black poverty.

Ramaphosa sloganeers radical economic transformation to silence his critics, while in fact he does not mean and champion it. Not long ago, he unveiled a $100 billion investment drive, which would essentially preserve white privilege.

Even if Ramaphosa can secure the $100bn or the economy could grow by 100%, it would not address black poverty without its fundamental change to bring the black majority into the mainstream economy, as both owners and controllers of the means of production, not just jobs to sell their labour. Maimane is a real agent of change, not a white puppet or a window-dresser.

* Tshabalala is an author and independent analyst.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.