DA RISING star Mmusi Maimane is in line to replace Lindiwe Mazibuko as the party’s parliamentary leader following the shock announcement that she is to take a one-year sabbatical from party politics.
DA leader and Western Cape premier Helen Zille yesterday revealed that Maimane, who was the party’s Gauteng premiership candidate, had said that he wanted to serve the opposition party in parliament.
Maimane, 33, was prominent in the DA’s election campaign and was featured in the party’s controversial television advert that got the ANC hot under the collar.
Mazibuko, 34, who took the party reins in parliament three years ago, said she had taken up an offer from Harvard University in the US to interact with the “world’s best minds about the most cutting-edge public policy ideas”.
Zille said the election of the party’s parliamentary leadership would take place at the end of the month.
“Mmusi Maimane still has to declare his candidacy. All I know is that he has made the decision to come to parliament,” Zille said.
She said she had asked Mazibuko to reconsider her break but she had already accepted the US offer.
“I am glad it didn’t come out during the election campaign because our opponents would have made a meal of it, and I’m glad I wasn’t conflicted by knowing about it during the election.
“I don’t want people to say I am welcoming the fact that she is going, not at all. But I am warmly welcoming the fact that she has had such a great opportunity.” Zille and party national chairman Wilmot James have also emerged as contenders to take over from Mazibuko.
James is an accomplished academic and is respected as a leading liberal.
Asked about his availability for the parliamentary leadership, James said he would prefer Zille to take on the job.
Zille said she had planned to continue as Western Cape premier but would consult within the party before she decided. Political analyst Steven Friedman said the year ahead would be a “very important test for the DA”.
He said Mazibuko and Zille were not pushing the majority agenda forward and had not done enough to distance the party from the Tony Leon era.
Of Maimane replacing Mazibuko, Friedman said: “He’s a very strong candidate … clearly, Maimane believes that he hasn’t done enough [in Gauteng].”
He said there was a perception that Mazibuko and Maimane were at odds about the direction the party should take. He said that Mazibuko’s sudden departure was “suspicious”.
Maimane said Mazibuko’s decision had taken him by surprise.
“Gauteng was always my first prize.
“Lindiwe’s decision was a surprise to me [but] the decision to go to parliament was my own,” Maimane said. “It’s not like Zille or anybody in the party said do this or do that.”
DA Youth leader Mbali Ntuli congratulated Mazibuko whom she described as “everything that is good and right about our party”.
“She espouses honesty, authenticity and a sheer drive for excellence.” – Philani Nombembe, Jan-Jan Joubert and Denise Williams