Mmusi Maimane elected as new DA leader

10 May 2015 - 15:43 By AFP and RDM News Wire
Democratic Alliance Mmusi Maimane, file photo.
Democratic Alliance Mmusi Maimane, file photo.

Mmusi Maimane has been elected as the new leader of the Democratic Alliance.

He succeeds Helen Zille‚ who has decided to bow out after years at the helm of the country’s chief opposition party.

The Democratic Alliance elected Mmusi Maimane as leader on Sunday, making him the first black leader of the party.

"Your new leader is Mmusi Maimane," Zille announced to loud cheers at the party's annual conference, after she opened a sealed envelope containing the election results.

Maimane, 34, the party's parliamentary leader, was seen as the clear favourite to succeed Zille in the election, in which 1,425 delegates from across the country voted by secret ballot.

Maimane beat the party’s federal chairman‚ Wilmot James‚ in what has been described as an intense leadership struggle to succeed Zille.

On April 12 this year, Zille made a shock announcement that she would not seek re-election as party leader at the congress, after eight years at the helm of the party.

In his speech after being elected Maimane promised that the DA would be the  next government of this country.

In his victory speech‚ Maimane‚ who described his election as “deeply humbling”‚  said the hopes of 1994 when South Africa’s first democratic elections were held meant nothing to the country’s young people.

He said the DA needed to “connect with everyone” and bring about “one nation with one future”.

In a warning to the country’s leader‚ he said: “President Zuma‚ if you are watching: we are still coming for you.”

On the issue of race‚ Maimane‚ who in the past has been accused of being a lackey of the country’s whites by members of the ruling African National Congress‚ said: “If you don’t see that I am a black man‚ then you don’t know me at all.”

Under Zille the DA made inroads in areas long dominated by the ANC, and it is looking to grow its support in the next local government elections in 2016.

The DA boosted its share of the vote from 16.6 percent in 2009 to 22.2 percent in 2014 elections, but still struggles to present itself as a credible alternative to the ANC, which has ruled since the formal end of apartheid in 1994.

The DA has its roots in the now defunct Progressive Party, co-founded by the late anti-apartheid activist Helen Suzman in 1959.