Mmusi exit plunges DA into ID crisis

Mmusi Maimane.
Mmusi Maimane.
Image: ALON SKUY

The resignation of Mmusi Maimane as DA leader is a pinnacle of an identity crisis for the party that has been long in the making.

The country's second largest political party, which runs the Western Cape, the city of Cape Town and controls governments of two other metros, now faces a real threat of shrinking into a small provincial party with a racial identity.

Whereas a few years ago the DA seemed destined to grow its share of the electorate to over 30 percent by 2024, it now seems likely that its share will shrink to the low figures it had soon after it was formed in the early 2000s.

This is not just because Maimane has dumped the party, the DA was growing pretty well before he joined. But the manner in which the leadership contest between him and former party leader Helen Zille was mishandled is likely to chase away many black and progressive voters from the party.

It is going to be very difficult for Zille and her supporters to convince black voters that the party is "home for all" given the fact that just about every senior black leader of the party has had to leave the party acrimoniously.

Lindiwe Mazibuko, Patricia de Lille and now Maimane. So, where do black opposition voters who are not convinced by the neo-leftist politics of the EFF go?

Do they settle for the small and ineffective parties such as the IFP, the UDM or Cope?

Or is there a space in our body politics for a new, centrist and black-led political party that can take on the ANC from a liberal platform?

What of the possibility of a fight-back campaign within the DA by those of its members who still believe that it can be transformed from within?

This is a conversation that should take place among those who believe in the need for a strong and centrist opposition party that is representative of the demographics of this country.

Democracy can truly strive in SA if bigger opposition parties are rooted within the majority, just like the ruling party.

Otherwise, the opposition is bound to fail because it will always be dismissed as merely there to defend the privileges that a minority unfairly gained under apartheid.

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