Mmusi Maimane has announced that he’s stepping down as Democratic Alliance (DA) party leader.
Maimane said at a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon that he will resign immediately as DA leader, but stay on as parliamentary leader until the end of the year.
He said, “There comes a time when leaders must step back. It is with great sadness that, in order to continue the fight for this vision I so strongly believe in, and the country I so dearly love, I today tender my resignation as leader of the DA. I will continue in the role as parliamentary leader until the end of the year, after which the party will go to Congress to elect new leadership.”
‘Not a career politician’
In his opening remarks, Maimane declared, “I’m not a career politician. I never sought to be one.”
He looked back at his journey as DA leader since his first election in 2015, noting that he promoted a sense of ownership of the party among all South Africans.
Maimane said he introduced the “Diversity Clause” to lead the DA “into more inclusivity” so that it wasn’t “a party for one race.”
He recounted DA’s successes in the 2016 local government elections, which included dislodging the African National Congress (ANC) in three metros.
‘A few who do not share vision’
Maimane alluded to his “many battles” in the DA, including with Helen Zille, which he nevertheless said were conducted with respect.
However, he said there “does exist a few in the DA who do not share this vision” of One South Africa for All.
In an emotional moment, the outgoing leader spoke of “attacks” and a campaign against him in an Afrikaans newspaper to undermine his name.
This put his wife and children under enormous stress, he said. Despite these attacks, Maimane said he’s still committed to his vision.
Maimane said he will still remain active in community campaigns, “We will continue to fight. We’re not stepping away from politics.”
Athol Trollip also resigns
DA’s Federal Chairperson Athol Trollip also announced his resignation, saying it was not an easy decision.
He said he was inspired by Maimane’s 2015 comment that “DA is not a party for racists.”
Notably, Trollip lashed out at a DA post-election review panel that recommended Maimane’s resignation. He said the recommendation was “unfair” and an “overreach.”
Despite not being named in panel report, Trollip said he was taking “collective responsibility” as Federal Chairperson, hence his resignation.
‘Challenging moment ahead’ – Zille
Newly elected Federal Council chairperson Helen Zille also addressed the press briefing. She said, “What happened today came as a shock to members of the Federal Executive.”
She said the Executive would have preferred Maimane and Trollip to remain in office until new leaders are elected by an early congress, tentatively slated for April 2020.
However, she said it was “with much sadness” that the Executive understood their decision, adding, “We now have a challenging moment ahead.”
This is because according to the DA’s constitution, Trollip was in line to succeed Maimane on an interim basis until congress elects a new leader.
Since both are resigning at the same time, Zille said the Executive is taking legal advice and will discuss the matter on Thursday.