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'The clock is close to midnight for Mmusi': DA insiders panic over Maimane's possible resignation

Panic has set in among allies of embattled DA leader Mmusi Maimane over his future as chief of the party.

The DA's federal executive will convene an urgent meeting in Johannesburg on Wednesday. The meeting was called shortly after City of Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba announced he was resigning from the position.

At the announcement, Maimane hailed Mashaba as a "hero". It's understood this rankled Maimane's detractors in the DA's liberal faction.

Speculation has been building that Maimane might step down as DA leader following a bruising weekend when his predecessor, Helen Zille, was elected as the new federal council chairperson. 

Mashaba cited Zille's return to power as one of the factors of his decision.

Several provincial and national leaders aligned to Maimane told News24 he was almost out of the door, with many believing it was now only a matter of when he would exit.

"He is rattled; I can tell you that for sure, but we told him he has to stay the course," said one senior provincial DA leader.

The same leader, who also sits on the federal executive, said Wednesday's meeting would be "very interesting" as some would go after Maimane for publicly declaring that Mashaba was his "hero" when the outgoing mayor lashed out at the DA's so-called "anti-poor" posture.

Mashaba's comments, his resignation announcement, as well as the leaking of the review panel report on the state of the organisation are expected to be on the agenda.

"The clock is close to midnight for Mmusi. If I was a betting man, I wouldn't give him more than two weeks," said a national leader who also sits on the federal executive. The leader told News24 he had lost confidence in Maimane's leadership skills.

Meanwhile, a senior leader close to Maimane told News24 the DA head was still mapping out a clear exit plan.

He said a plan to have Maimane replace Mashaba until the early elective conference was one of the scenarios they had suggested but "he [Maimane] was not convinced". Some in the party have also indicated that they want Maimane to stay on as an ordinary MP.

Maimane’s spokespersons Azola Mboniswa has dismissed these claims as just rumors saying "the leader of the DA is still Maimane".

'It's going to be rough'

"It's going to be rough. Mmusi is completely going to be roasted. He has to be taken to task about his 'hero' comments," he added.

Another party insider close to Maimane told News24 while some feared he would throw in the towel during the urgent federal executive meeting, Maimane had indicated his desire to hold on at least until a possible policy conference or even the elective congress where the party would elect a new leadership.

"He honestly has been deflated for a while now. He gave up a long time ago, even before the federal council, you could see he was tired, but I don't see him leaving at least until policy conference," claimed a second national leader.

A prominent leader, who does not sit on the executive, said he had heard rumours that a possible resignation from Maimane was imminent.

"Of course I have heard rumours that he is going to resign. I don't know if he will do it. I can't say," the leader said.

Another provincial leader in Maimane's inner circle said they were working overtime to caution him against making any "rash decisions".

"If he goes, I go. You must understand the pressure we are under. I told you there might be a mass exit."

Echoing this sentiment, the first provincial leader who spoke to News24, said:" I would not rule out that many others would follow Maimane. In all probability people will follow him."

Mashaba dilemma

The federal executive meeting will have to consider Mashaba's resignation and whether to make an exception to its constitution, which states that a person ceases to be a member of the party once they announce an intention to resign from the organisation.

During his resignation speech, Mashaba announced he would stay on until the end of November to conclude outstanding matters and to allow the party to find a suitable successor. However, party insiders have indicated that Mashaba would be removed as soon as possible.

One council member said his blistering resignation convinced many that the mayor had to go immediately.

"Any member who questions the party in that manner would face disciplinary action. I don't see how we can have him stay on. His resignation must be implemented with immediate effect. That issue will definitely be discussed."

In his speech on Monday, Mashaba said he could not reconcile himself with a party that did not share his values and questioned the DA's stance on race and inequality.

He said Zille's election represented "a victory for people in the DA who stand diametrically opposed to my beliefs and value system, and I believe of those of most South Africans of all backgrounds".

Zille has attempted to poke holes in the reasons behind Mashaba's resignation, questioning his latest views on the party on both social media platforms and during news interviews.

"To her defence, no one else is standing up for the party. Maimane has said nothing while the party's image is being tarnished," said a national leader who is believed to be close to Zille.

Continued leaks make it to Fedex agenda

It is understood that the federal executive will have to discuss the leaking of the panel review report on the state of the party following its poor performance during the May general elections.

A leader sympathetic to Maimane's stance said Zille had already started tackling tough tasks, interviewing senior staffers on the possible leak.

"She has not wasted any time. Some of the staff have spoken about her arrogance at teleconferences. Some staff are not feeling safe," he said

As News24 reported on Sunday, the leaked report made damning findings on Maimane’s leadership and raised concerns over alienating its core Afrikaans voters. 

The panel led by former leader Tony Leon, ex-DA chief executive officer Ryan Coetzee and Capitec founder Michiel le Roux recommended that Maimane step down. 

However, the federal council agreed to an early conference. Maimane himself, in his opening remarks, raised issues around the culture of leaks that had crept into the DA.

 

Lizeka Tandwa, Tshidi Madia

News24 

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