The main opposition leader of Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane has been asked to quit for the sake of the party, as several leaders have claimed that a right-wing element in the DA is behind a “smear campaign” against him, according to reports on Sunday.
The Sunday Times reported that strategist Ryan Coetzee led a delegation of senior party figures, including former DA leader Tony Leon, to ask Maimane to quit, with some of his supporters seeing the moves as a resurgence of the party’s white, liberal old guard.
Coetzee was heading an independent organisational review panel, which was due to present a final report in full to the next meeting of the Federal Executive, later this month.
In June, Maimane said he took responsibility for the decline in votes in the last election, during a federal council meeting.
“The review will investigate the underlying drivers of the party’s performance in the 2019 general election and will encompass the capacity of the party’s leadership and public representatives, its political identity, policy platform, strategy, structure, processes and operations, as well as any other considerations that may be relevant to achieving the party’s objectives,” Maimane told journalists at the time.
Maimane confirmed to the Sunday Times that the panel’s draft recommendations had been communicated to him, while Coetzee declined to comment and said no one should come to any premature conclusions.
According to the newspaper, the panel has recommended that the DA convene an early congress and if so, that Maimane should not avail himself for election to allow new leaders to come to the fore.
It also recommended a change in leadership for DA-led metros across the country, the report stated.
Several DA leaders told the Weekend Argus that a right-wing element was orchestrating a ‘smear campaign’ against Maimane.
Maimane used the same term to describe reports that he declared a R4m Cape Town home as his own and drove a car bought by Steinhoff’s Markus Jooste. The DA’s financial committee has cleared Maimane of any wrongdoing.
“There are only a few individuals who cannot win an argument at all in structures provided for in the party. They simply want to go run it in public … we will not surrender that war, we will not stay back,” Maimane told News24 in an interview.
“We are continuing to fight for the future of this party, and I’m certainly committed to the battle in whatever form it takes,” he added.
According to sources high up in the party, there is a possibility that more scandals involving Maimane will emerge as the DA prepares for its crucial federal council meeting on Friday, when the election of a new federal council chairperson is also expected to take place.
The Weekend Argus reported that a group of mainly white leaders was forcing Maimane out, unhappy with his combative approach towards President Cyril Ramaphosa, fearing that it could open up the path for his deputy David Mabuza to succeed him.
Insiders close to Maimane claimed to News24 that the so-called 1959 committee will attempt to create a parallel structure to undermine Maimane. It’s also seen as a factional structure seeking to institutionalise divisions in the DA.
Maimane said he was not surprised that some in the DA were opposed to the direction in which he was steering the party, but he put this down to a few individuals.
“If you are a political leader and you want everybody in the party to be happy, then give all the people ice-cream, but actually, if you want to bring change, you’re going to have people who oppose the change,” he said.