By Annisa Essack
28 October 2019
The fallout from the implosion in the DA seems to be unending as Mmusi Maimane dropped another bombshell on Thursday via Twitter when he resigned from Parliament.
The news widened the fault lines within the DA and the immediate repercussions were felt. His resignation effectively brought an end to all non-elected parliamentary caucus positions such as the Chief Whip and all “shadow ministers. As a leader, Maimane made the appointment to these positions and the fallout was immediate.
John Steenhuisen was the first casualty as his term ended leaving Caucus Chair, Annelie Lotriet in charge temporarily, alongside Jacques Julius as deputy. To maintain stability in the tumultuous landscape, all the “shadow ministers” were retained in their posts but this will change once a new leader is elected.
In the swirling confusion that ensued, the return of Helen Zille either infuriated many or brought hope for other DA members. But her return, ill-timed, certainly lay the final blow that cleaved the long-existing fault lines.
Losing Mashaba is perhaps the greatest blow to the DA – he is a black, socially conservative, capitalist who earned his millionaires, an entirely different scenario when compared to the ANC empowerment millionaires. His wrongdoing is perhaps that he got on better with the EFF than his own party’s councilors thus infuriating the DA leadership and causing concern that the EFF was parlaying its political co-operation into lucrative city contracts. Moreover, his entrepreneur nature made him temperamentally ill-suited to having every decision he made interrogated and challenged by a caucus, instead of simply being obeyed by pliable underlings.
Maimane made the mistake of waiting. His resignation was unavoidable since the dismal May election performance which sealed his fate as the DA demands accountability and since it was concluded that his primary problem was a “failure of effective leadership”, his head was already on the block. Of course, his resignation brought with it the departure of close ally, Athol Trollip.
Good government relies on a strong opposition. It matters also where on the political spectrum the strongest opposition lies. For that is the direction of compromise, the ideological direction in which the government is pushed, in order not to lose votes to its strongest rival. SA needs a strong, centre-right opposition to counterbalance the threatening growth of the other major opposition party, the radical-left EFF.
Zille’s and Steenhuisen’s, should he become the leader, first challenge will be to ensure that this changing of the guard does not become an irretrievable party schism.