The DA has suffered a double whammy with the resignation of its leader Mmusi Maimane as well as federal chairperson Athol Trollip.
It was widely expected that Maimane would fall on his sword on Wednesday but the same announcement by his close ally stunned an urgent sitting of the federal executive.
Maimane, the first black leader of the party, announced his leave alongside Trollip in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon following the urgent sitting which was chaired by former party leader Helen Zille for the first time in her new role as federal council chairperson.
City Press had reported that Maimane had told those close to him that should Zille emerge victorious there was no chance that he would remain in the position.
The former premier of the Western Cape beat three candidates for the job including Trollip who was set to serve as interim leader as per the constitution of the party given his position as federal chairperson.
Zille announced that Trollip’s decision stunned the DA and left them with a constitutional conundrum and that the party would urgently be seeking legal advice.
A teleconference with the federal executive will be held on Thursday.
Maimane said he indicated that he wished to stay on as parliamentary leader until December but the decision on that was yet to be made.
Maimane’s allies in the party were said to be trying to convince him not to make the move just yet, as late as Tuesday evening without success.
Last weekend’s sitting of the federal council – the highest decision-making body in between congresses – resolved to have an early congress to renew the mandate of the party ahead of the 2021 local government elections.
Maimane’s resignation comes hot on the heels of the resignation of his friend and political ally Herman Mashaba who resigned as mayor of Johannesburg on Monday in protest of Zille’s election.
In a stunning move, Maimane attended Mashaba’s press conference in which he slammed the DA for its big brother approach to coalition politics.
He said that the party was the most difficult coalition partner and that members wanted him to rule with an iron fist despite only garnering 38% of the vote in the 2016 polls.
The mayor also said he could not reconcile himself with leading with people who did not accept that South Africa today was more unequal than it was in 1994.
Maimane – who succeeded Zille in 2015 as party leader – fell out with his political mentor around about the time of her colonialism tweets.
He was forced to compel the party to discipline her. Factions were later laid bare over the party’s position on whether or not race should be used as a determination for the disadvantaged.
Maimane had argued that race should in fact be used as a proxy as black people remained in the main disadvantaged having been locked out of the mainstream economy during apartheid.
The former party leader dug his own grave when he appointed a panel to review the organisation – following a poor performance at the polls in May where the DA lost around 400 000 votes – made up of former party leader Tony Leon, former party strategist Ryan Coetzee and Capitec founder Michiel le Roux.
That panel was scathing on Maimane, saying that his leadership had led the party into disarray.
The report stated that the majority of those consulted commented on his leadership saying that he was conflict averse, inconsistent and indecisive.