The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) rising star and national spokesperson Mmusi Maimane has confirmed he will stand for the powerful position of the party’s parliamentary leader, ending weeks of speculation that he was being groomed to take over from outgoing Lindiwe Mazibuko.
Maimane announced his intentions in a letter addressed to his colleagues in the DA parliamentary caucus, where he wrote: “I am pleased to formally announce that I have accepted nomination for the position of parliamentary leader.”
If Maimane wins the race, his rise in the party would be even more rapid than his predecessor Mazibuko, who abruptly departed from Parliament four days after the May 7 national elections, announcing that she was taking a sabbatical to study at the prestigious Harvard University in the United States.
Party insiders have over the past few months claimed that DA leader Helen Zillle has been grooming Maimane, who also ran for Gauteng premier, to take over from Mazibuko after a fallout with Zille.
In fact, they have claimed it was the real reason for Mazibuko’s departure, as she feared the humiliation of losing her position to Maimane to become a back bencher in Parliament.
On Thursday afternoon, it was still not clear who will stand against Maimane.
The Mail & Guardian reported last week that another new MP, Makashule Gana, could be a surprise contender to succeed Mazibuko and was being encouraged by an independently minded group known as the “black caucus” within the DA. The group want to challenge what it sees as Zille’s culture of anointing her “yes men and women” into senior positions, with little regard for what party members want or what it means for the individual down the line, as in Mazibuko’s case.
Gana could not be reached for comment at the time of publishing.
In his letter, Maimane revealed that Anchen Dreyer, who like Maimane is one of the DA’s three deputy federal chairpersons, will be the new chair of the DA caucus – a position which until now has been held by Wilmot James. John Steenhuisen will become the new DA chief whip, succeeding Watty Watson who retired from Parliament at the end of the last term.
While Maimane lacks experience in the legislature, both Dreyer and Steenhuisen have abundant experience having served as councillors, members of the provincial legislature in their respective provinces and as MPs at the National Assembly.
“This is a time of huge growth and potential for our party. I believe the DA can become the core of an alternative government in 2019 if we build bridges across racial and cultural boundaries,” said Maimane.
“Parliament is our biggest national platform. How we perform in this chamber over the next five years will be central to whether we succeed or fail in our mission,” he said.
The DA’s 103 parliamentary members – 89 for the National Assembly and 14 for the National Council of Provinces – will choose their leader on May 29. The election next Thursday is for the positions of parliamentary leader, caucus chairperson, a deputy, a deputy whip and 10 other whips. The party’s chief whip is appointed by the parliamentary leader.
Nominations for the leadership position opened on May 19 and will close on May 26.