Maimane: The man be­hind the hype

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

JO­HAN­NES­BURG — Mmusi Maimane, newly elected leader of the Demo­cratic Al­liance (DA), was born on 6 June 1980 in Dob­sonville, Soweto in Jo­han­nes­burg.

At the age of 34, Mr Maimane is not only the first black leader of South Africa’s main op­po­si­tion party, but also a learned politi­cian who holds a Bach­e­lor’s De­gree in Psy­chol­ogy, a Mas­ter’s De­gree in The­ol­ogy and a Mas­ter’s De­gree in Public and Devel­op­ment Man­age­ment from Wits Uni­ver­sity.

His wife Natalie, who de­scribes Mr Maimane as her “best friend”, said in an in­ter­view with Netwerk24: “un­for­tu­nately … we haven’t moved past race as South Africans.

When Mmusi first started in par­lia­ment, the idea that he was mar­ried to a white woman was brought up in par­lia­ment by var­i­ous MPS who heck­led him.

Sadly, it’s brought up by the ANC … as a sort of a hole in his African­ness, and be­cause he’s mar­ried to a white woman, he’s not African enough. That’s a view that needs to be chal­lenged.”

The Maimanes have two chil­dren, three­year-old Kgalaletso and ten-month-old Kgosi. De­spite all the neg­a­tive com­ments re­gard­ing their in­ter­ra­cial mar­riage, the cou­ple seems un­fazed, and Natalie thinks “what has been help­ful in that is to stop com­par­ing my­self to peo­ple around me”.

In an in­ter­view with ENCA, Mr Maimane said: “I want to model for my kids a kind of South Africa that we want to see.

I teach my kids re­spect not be­cause it’s a black thing, but be­cause it’s a re­spect is­sue. I want them to know that ev­ery­one who’s an adult they must re­spect.” It’s about break­ing down his­tor­i­cal prej­u­dices.

By join­ing the DA, he has pro­voked some sup­port­ers of the rul­ing ANC — the party that led the strug­gle against white-mi­nor­ity rule.

ANC law­maker Lindiwe Sisulu once called him a “hired na­tive” –– an ex­plo­sive term she was forced to with­draw.

Be­fore get­ting into pol­i­tics, the lanky, smart dresser, who was in the 2014 GQ Mag- azine’s list of best-dressed men, ran his own man­age­ment con­sul­tancy and lec­tured at a busi­ness school in Jo­han­nes­burg.

In his first term as party leader, Mr Maimane will be charged with widen­ing the ap­peal of the DA to take sup­port­ers from the rul­ing African Na­tional Congress.

Mr Maimane’s elec­tion is in­tended to at­tract black votes to the party, which has the sup­port of many whites. The DA won 22 per­cent of the vote in the 2014 elec­tion, South Africa’s News24 said.

The ANC has won more than 60 per­cent of the vote in ev­ery elec­tion since it took power un­der Nel­son Man­dela in 1994.

Now Mr Maimane is pledg­ing to pur­sue a law­suit against Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, who is ac­cused of tak­ing bribes from arms deal­ers. The pres­i­dent has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions and the charges were dropped weeks be­fore he took of­fice in 2009.

“Pres­i­dent Zuma,

if you are watch­ing, please note we are still com­ing for you,” Mr Maimane said in his ac­cep­tance speech Sun­day. “No­body is above the law. And equally so, no po­lit­i­cal party has the di­vine right to rule this coun­try.”

De­spite the fall of apartheid more than two decades ago, South Africa re­mains a deeply di­vided na­tion along racial lines.

The black ma­jor­ity con­tin­ues to live in poverty. About one in four peo­ple living in South Africa are un­em­ployed and the worst af­fected are young black peo­ple, PBS re­ported.

The na­tion’s un­em­ploy­ment and poverty sparked deadly xeno­pho­bic vi­o­lence against African im­mi­grants in the cities of Dur­ban and Jo­han­nes­burg this year.

Mr Maimane, the son of a cashier, dis­cussed the strug­gle of young black South Africans dur­ing his ac­cep­tance speech Sun­day. “Not every­body I grew up with has had the same op­por­tu­ni­ties as me,” he said.

“Th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences shaped me, just like they shaped so many young black peo­ple of my gen­er­a­tion. And that is why I sim­ply don’t agree with those who say they don’t see colour. Be­cause, if you don’t see that I’m black, then you don’t see me.”

The Soweto na­tive said South Africa must first rec­og­nize the eco­nomic in­equal­i­ties across racial lines in or­der to rise above them.

“This doesn’t mean our skin colour must de­fine us for­ever,” he said. “We can tran­scend race. But this can only hap­pen if ev­ery South African ac­knowl­edges the in­jus­tices of apartheid; and it can only hap­pen if we all rec­og­nize that the racial in­equal­ity of the past re­mains with us to­day.”

Mr Maimane, a preacher at Dis­cov­ery Church in Rand­burg, said that above all, the DA will push for mea­sures to cre­ate jobs and equal op­por­tu­ni­ties as well as strengthen the econ­omy. Mr Maimane, who took 88.9 per­cent of the DA del­e­gates’ votes, re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion from the crowd at the end of his victory speech.

South African press has dubbed Mr Maimane as the “Obama of Soweto,” a com­par­i­son which he has re­buffed.

— IBT- Cit­i­zen.

Newly elected DA party leader Mmusi Maimane (cen­tre left) cel­e­brates with party mem­bers on Sun­day.

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