Maimane proposes early elective conference as opponents in DA circle

23 September 2019 - 17:43 By Aphiwe Deklerk and Zimasa Matiwane
DA leader Mmusi Maimane has been under pressure from some sections of the DA following the party’s poor showing in the elections.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane has been under pressure from some sections of the DA following the party’s poor showing in the elections.
Image: Twitter/Mmusi Maimane

DA leader Mmusi Maimane on Friday dared his opponents in the party to take him on, proposing that the DA holds an early conference if they feel ready to oust him. 

TimesLIVE understands that Maimane made the proposal for an early conference during his opening address at the party’s federal executive meeting, which ended at the weekend.

DA leaders who attended told TimesLIVE that Maimane’s move was meant to disarm his detractors who want him out as party leader.

Maimane has been under pressure from some sections of the DA following the party’s poor performance in the May general election.

The latest test of his leadership was the establishment of an informal structure, called the 1959 committee, led by DA MPs Ghaleb Cachalia and Michael Cardo. News of establishment of the committee broke two weeks ago.

Maimane’s supporters view the structure as a “parallel caucus”. Some have dubbed it a “formalised faction".

Maimane's main detractors, who are usually referred to as the “true liberals”, have opposed a number of changes in the party, including the DA's stance on black economic empowerment.

A DA insider said provincial leaders came out against the idea of an early congress, arguing that the party needed to refocus and that a political contest would not help.

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A provincial leader said both Maimane’s supporters and detractors agreed not go to an early conference, but for different reasons. “An early conference will not change the identity of the DA or any ideological fight; it will just cause instability,” said the leader.

Those who support Maimane against the “onslaught” said they did not want to affirm the perception that black DA leaders are "used" and then pushed out of the party through early conferences.

The provincial leader also claimed that a minority that identifies as “true liberals” wanted to destroy Maimane’s public credibility.

Another DA leader said the rejection of Maimane’s call for an early congress was not a defeat for him. “The intention was to declare and to show that there is no fear of a congress. He was saying, if you want to go to congress I am ready,” he said.

He said the reason Maimane’s detractors opposed the early congress was because they were not ready and “they don’t have a candidate” to challenge him.

Party spokesperson Solly Malatsi confirmed that Maimane made the proposal but it was rejected by his colleagues.

“Fedex (the federal executive) was of the view that it would be undesirable to pursue an early congress, given that we have had a congress as recently as 18 months ago and that the current leadership has a mandate which they need to serve,” said Malatsi. 

Western Cape DA leader Bonginkosi Madikizela said he didn’t support the move for an early conference because the party has just come out of an elective conference.

“Yes, I accept that we have a number of challenges that we need to sort out - and that will not be solved by a conference. You have to find a way to address the challenges that we have, but I don’t see how a congress will help us to achieve that,” he said.

“People who have a problem with the current leaders must wait for the next congress. They have enough time to prepare for that congress.”

Gauteng DA leader John Moodey said he did not mind an early conference but the party’s structures were not ready for one.

“As a provincial leader ... if there is a call for an early conference to renew Mmusi’s mandate, I am ready for it,” said Moodey. 

“He still has my support to finish his term of office, but I personally am not going to tolerate this undermining of the leaders.”