JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane resigned as head of the main opposition party on Wednesday, citing difficulties making the traditionally white liberal party appeal to majority black voters.
Twenty-five years after the end of white minority apartheid rule, race and class remain highly divisive issues in Africa’s most industrialised economy where the ruling African National Congress has been in power since 1994.
Brought in to help broaden the DA’s appeal among the black majority, Maimane’s resignation is the second departure of a senior black leader in a matter of days. On Monday Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba also abruptly quit following accusations by him that the party espousing liberal values was lurching to the right.
DA Federal Chairperson Athol Trollip also resigned from his position and politics alongside Maimane on Wednesday, saying he was taking full responsibility for the party’s poor showing in the May presidential election won by the ANC..
Soweto-born Maimane, who was elected in 2015, said during his years as leader he had “relentlessly” sought to grow the party among all South Africans, especially blacks.
But the journey to transform the party was marred by “consistent and coordinated attempt to undermine my leadership and ensure that either this project failed, or I failed,” he said in his address to the media.
“It is no secret that for decades the DA has been seen as a party for minorities only. The majority of South Africans, mainly black South Africans, did not relate to the DA and by extension struggle to trust the DA,” Maimane said.
“Over the past months, it has become quite clear to me that there exists a grouping within the DA who do not see eye to eye with me, and do not share this vision for the party and the direction it was taking,” he added.
The DA Federal Council was meeting on Wednesday to discuss Mashaba’s resignation as well as an internal report that called for Maimane to step down as leader, after the DA’s failure to make significant gains in the May election.
(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla and Wendell Roelf; Editing by Chris Reese and Tom Brown)