DA 'old guard' bays for Mmusi Maimane's blood

Maimane in hot seat as party meets to discuss poll losses

12 May 2019 - 00:06 By THABO MOKONE, APHIWE DEKLERK and QAANITAH HUNTER

DA leader Mmusi Maimane's future is expected to come under sharp discussion at a crucial meeting of the party's federal executive (fedex) tomorrow, after the DA's poor showing in this year's general elections.
The DA fedex, responsible for the party's day-to-day affairs, is due to meet at Nkululeko House in Johannesburg to reflect on the party's most underwhelming electoral performance in years.
With Maimane at the helm, the DA has for the first time since its formation failed to increase its electoral support. It dropped its share of national votes from the 22.23% under Helen Zille to 20.77% this year.
This means the number of DA MPs in the National Assembly will decrease from 89 to about 84.
Well-placed sources in the DA have told the Sunday Times that Maimane's detractors in the party are baying for his blood and are also gunning for DA CEO Jonathan Moakes, who was in charge of the party's election campaign.
Those involved in a fresh bid to oust Maimane are said to include current and former MPs and MPLs from the party's neo-conservative grouping, known in DA circles as the "old guard", which does not agree with the direction the party has taken under him.
"They are gloating. Even before the results started coming in, there were so many of them that were waiting for Mmusi to fail," said a party source.
But DA federal chair Athol Trollip said the federal executive meeting has nothing to do with Maimane's fate.
"This federal executive was scheduled long before elections. It's got nothing to do with leadership of the party. We select our leaders every three years. This federal executive was scheduled to consider the outcomes of the elections. And that's what we're going to do," said Trollip, adding that the fedex was firmly behind Maimane.
A DA Western Cape leader, Bonginkosi Madikizela, came out in Maimane's defence, saying those who ditched the party because it did not protect the interests of a few did not belong in the DA.
Eastern Cape provincial leader Nqaba Bhanga said those calling for Maimane's head were the same people who were doing nothing to help grow the party.
"That colleague would be someone who has not gone to one door-to-door," said Bhanga.
Other DA insiders said that though Maimane is likely to escape the fedex meeting unscathed because he enjoys the support of most of the provincial leaders, they are worried about a meeting of the federal council, the party's highest decision-making structure between conferences, which is scheduled for June.
They expect a spirited fight to topple Maimane to be mounted at this meeting, including calls for an early national congress next year instead of the one scheduled for 2021.
The federal council is a much more powerful structure and includes other DA leaders, as well as MPs and MPLs opposed to Maimane.
"We know that there will be fingers pointing at him and the CEO, to say the campaign was weak and our messaging was not strong.
"But I think in the fedex he will be fine because he has got the support of the provincial leaders. The real worry is the meeting of the federal council because that's where most of his detractors are concentrated."
Another source said calls for an early national congress would be defeated.
"There will have to be a sacrificial lamb and that will play out at the fedex on Monday, but I think Mmusi will be fine, at least for now. People will try their luck at the federal council … but the reality is that we can't afford an early conference, politically and financially."
Other DA figures close to the discussions cast the loss of support in a different light.
"Yes, we have lost support to the Freedom Front Plus, but perhaps it's about time we lost the right-wing conservatives in the party because we are trying to build a party that represents the interests of all South Africans. Perhaps that will also help us continue increasing support in black areas, which is what we did in this election," said one of the insiders...

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