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Update: Mmusi Maimane has since resigned from the DA entirely. Read the full story here.
Mmusi Maimane has resigned as the leader of South Africa’s official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA).
The news was announced at a press conference on Wednesday in Johannesburg by Maimane himself after a lengthy delay.
When he did finally take to the podium draped in black (nearly five hours later), he was flanked by the party’s federal executive.
He noted that as leader he tried to build an inclusive party “that all South Africans could call home”.
“I’m not a career politician,” he added.
He also spoke of the party’s growth during his tenure, and the “trust” built between the country and the party.
“Along the journey we made some tough decisions, we fought long battles,” he noted, “even with Helen Zille.”
Maimane added that it had however become increasingly difficult to realise his vision within the party in recent weeks.
“It is with great sadness […] that today I will step down as the leader of DA.”
Athol Trollip, the federal chairperson of the DA, also announced his resignation from his position at Wednesday’s press conference.
The beginning of the end
Maimane became the leader of the DA in May 2015, gaining that title from former Western Cape premier and newly-elected federal council chair, Helen Zille.
On Monday, Herman Mashaba also announced that he would resign from the DA and his role as the Mayor of Johannesburg citing Zille’s recent political revival as a key issue.
It’s been my greatest honour to serve and work with this incredible South African @HermanMashaba. Our paths have crossed for a reason and a purpose and we shall never surrender that purpose. pic.twitter.com/Jmrx6b7NIv
— Mmusi Maimane (@MmusiMaimane) October 21, 2019
Trollip stated back in May that Maimane would not be unseated but instead remain at the helm of the party until 2021.
However, nearly five tumultuous months later, it seems that Maimane, and Trollip for that matter, has other ideas.
Twitter reacts with disappointment, speculation and memes
#MmusiMaimane began trending on Twitter in South Africa well before his press conference, as locals pondered the state of the opposition party.
Some believed the news marked a “sad moment” for the country.
The resignation of #MmusiMaimane is a sad moment in South African politics.
For those of you who do want to make it in white organisations, please may this be a reminder that a standard of competence in SA is how much you do not disturb the status quo.
— Sharné Zoë (@Zoe_SZi) October 23, 2019
Some felt that a political “reset” is required, and Maimane’s departure gives him that opportunity.
1) SA needs a modern, multi-racial, sensible political party that can implement smart economics for growth and redistribution
2) The ANC has proven it can't achieve that
3) #MmusiMaimane wasn't going to get the DA there
4) The DA brand is now toxic
5) Reset required
— Dawie Scholtz (@DawieScholtz) October 23, 2019
Others highlighted the Zille connection, or the “common denominator”.
— zwelihle (@UWelizwe) October 23, 2019
AS #MmusiMaimane is expected to brief the media at 13:00.
I'll leave it here……… pic.twitter.com/14jNkz4H0Z
— Media Liaison: KAMOGELO (@KayTsime) October 23, 2019
Others, well, Twitter oracles at least, foresaw some former DA member cooperation in the future.
— Nani 🇿🇦 (@lazyirv) October 23, 2019
Where to now for the DA?
Maimane also thanked the DA staff, wished the party well, and especially Helen Zille in her new political role.
He also confirmed that he is “not stepping away from politics”.
It’s unclear who will fill Maimane’s role as the leader of the party, especially since Trollip — who would’ve assumed his position — has also called it quits.
However, Maimane will remain the leader of the opposition party in Parliament at least until the end of the year.
He has also not resigned from the party itself.
This is a developing story…