Horns of dilemma for Maimane

Mmusi Maimane
Mmusi Maimane

DA leader Mmusi Maimane is rapidly becoming a politician South Africans - especially the so-called Black Twitter - love to hate.

Whatever he says is often met with ridicule, particularly among those who see him as a "front for white political interests".

While commentators usually critically engage with what President Cyril Ramaphosa and the EFF's Julius Malema say, Maimane's statements - no matter how serious the issue - are turned into "memes" on social media.

The upside of this for Maimane and the DA is that, at least, these audiences are not ignoring him. In politics, the worst thing that can happen to a politician is to be ignored. There can be no denying that black voters pay more attention to what is happening within the historically white party now that it is under Maimane's leadership than when it was led by his predecessors - Helen Zille and Tony Leon.

Suspicious as some of the black voters may be of the DA because of its contested history, it would be a huge mistake for the electorate to turn a blind eye to the ideological battle currently taking place between Maimane and a powerful group of party insiders who believe that the DA should remain essentially white.

It is an epic battle, one that would not only define the DA's future role in South Africa's body politic, but could determine if Maimane has what it takes for voters to seriously consider him for the Union Buildings in the coming years.

As an individual he seems to be dwarfed by Ramaphosa and Malema, even though his party attracts more votes than those of the EFF. With no Struggle credentials to speak of - largely because of his age - Maimane's attractiveness to the electorate is dependent on what he does in his current role to mould the DA into the kind of nonracial party he always talks about.

To achieve this, he has to take on powerful interests within the party who were attracted to the DA because they saw it as a shield to protect white minority privileges against the spear of political and economic transformation. If he wins this battle, he may lose some traditional party followers but gain many more who have so far stayed away as they perceived the DA to be not a party for all.

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