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Going, going, gone: A timeline of Mmusi Maimane's troubles

23 October 2019 - 19:16 By ZIMASA MATIWANE
Mmusi Maimane announced his resignation as DA leader at a press conference on Wednesday.
Mmusi Maimane announced his resignation as DA leader at a press conference on Wednesday.
Image: Sunday Times/Alaister Russell

The 2019 general elections forced South Africa’s official opposition, the DA, into a moment of introspection after experiencing its first electoral decline since the party was formed 19 years ago.

While the party initially took “collective responsibility” for its poor showing at the polls, it soon became apparent that its leader Mmusi Maimane would bear the brunt of the poor showing.

Here is a timeline of key events over the past few months that ultimately led to his resignation on Wednesday. 

May 2019

  • The party's national vote dropped from 22.2% to 20.8%. 
  • Maimane set up an Independent Organisational Review panel, tasked to review the party’s ability to build “a constitutional liberal democratic alternative to the ANC”. The review, chaired by political strategist Ryan Coetzee, who worked closely with former DA leader Tony Leon to establish the party in June 2000, followed by a stint as DA MP between 2004 and 2008 and DA CEO, also assessed the party’s performance during the elections.

September 2019

  • While Maimane's future seemed safe, the first tangible cracks of the poor electoral performance were made public when news broke that the DA would be cutting jobs after it shed votes in the May elections and lost state and donor funding. “The reality of the situation with regard staff retrenchments and the absence of bonuses this year is that the organisation is in a difficult financial position due to this year’s electoral results, where we didn’t achieve the objectives and support we needed,” said Solly Malatsi, the party’s spokesperson.
  • While the DA awaited a report that was meant to guide it into the future, its leader’s personal ethics came under scrutiny when it emerged that Maimane had used a vehicle sponsored by disgraced former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste and that he initially declared a house he rents as his own.
  • A probe was launched and the DA cleared Maimane of any financial wrongdoing. 

October 2019

  • The Independent Organisational Review panel recommended that Maimane step down. However, the DA's federal executive (Fedex) rejected a recommendation that the embattled leader leave.
  • A delegation of senior party figures, led by Leon and Coetzee, asked Maimane to quit in the interests of the party. He refused.
  • DA CEO Paul Boughey resigned with immediate effect. Boughey had also taken flak over the DA's poor electoral showing.
  • With Maimane’s future looking increasingly uncertain, his troubles began to appear insurmountable.
  • Helen Zille, his former mentor turned foe, announced she would stand for the DA's federal executive chairperson and won. They committed to work together.
  • Upon Zille becoming Fedex chair, Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba made good on his promise to quit the metro. Mashaba said the DA had tried to undermine his coalition government and planned to collapse his administration. "I cannot reconcile myself with people who fail to realise that SA is more unequal now than it was before 1994," said an emotional Mashaba. Maimane, who stood by Mashaba’s side, called him his hero.
  • Rumours began to swirl that Maimane intended to step down as party leader.
  • At a press conference on Wednesday he announced his departure as party leader.

The troubled Democratic Alliance is reeling from the sudden departure of two of its key figures, Mmusi Maimane and Athol Trollip. The party's leader and federal chairperson announced their resignations on Wednesday October 23 2019. In a heartfelt speech, Maimane thanked those who had supported him and urged South Africans not to lose sight of the bigger picture: a democratic and united country.

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