Bid to cement Mmusi’s position fails
● DA leader Mmusi Maimane and his supporters suffered a major defeat on the eve of the party’s federal congress when they were forced to withdraw constitutional amendments to strengthen his grip on power.
This is according to senior party leaders who attended a special meeting of the DA federal council in Pretoria on Friday. The meeting was to finalise preparations and policy that were due to be discussed at the congress this weekend.
The senior party leaders said Maimane and the DA’s constitutional review committee had to drop a proposal to extend Maimane’s term from three to five years.
The committee, headed by council chairman James Selfe, a Maimane ally, failed to advance a “politically cogent” argument, the leaders said.
Sources said Maimane’s opponents in the council also blocked a proposal to reduce the national management committee.
While Maimane is due to be re-elected unopposed this morning, the battle on policy and amendments is regarded as a serious test of his authority. Those sympathetic to Maimane said that at the last meeting of the outgoing federal council Maimane won a compromise on the issue of race and diversity.
The sticking point was the proposal that said “the party will to the best of its ability attempt to replicate diversity in its own ranks”, which was interpreted by its opponents as the introduction of racial quotas.
Following a heated meeting on Friday night, the proposal was tightened to ensure the DA expressly rejected quotas.
“The party will continue to take active steps to promote and advance diversity in its own ranks,” read the compromise solution.
Those at the meeting said Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip led the defence of the constitutional proposals.
He said those opposed to Maimane’s amendments on race and diversity — among them chief whip John Steenhuisen and MP Gavin Davis — accepted the adoption of the diversity clause with the understanding that the largely liberal DA would still champion individual rights and anchor its deployment policy on the “fit for purpose” principle.
DA leaders — among them Makashule Gana, Khume Ramulifho, Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga and Masizole Mnqasela — are pushing for an amendment on race and diversity but do not support the five-year term or a reduced management committee.
The proposal to reduce the committee to just four, including Maimane, would have led to the chief whip, the deputy chairperson of the federal council, the federal chairperson of finance and the parliamentary leader left out. It was slammed as a centralisation of power in the hands of a few.
Another prominent DA leader said: “On the five-year issue they absolutely stood no chance. They had to concede because there was no real political argument as they were raising issues of money and how expensive it was to convene conferences in three-year intervals, and we said you can’t attach monetary value to issues of political leadership when you want to project yourself as a party ready to govern South Africa.”
Yesterday, Davis refused to comment on specific discussions at the federal council meeting, which were described by sources as “hectic”.
Davis said: “It was a very constructive meeting, with consensus on the need for a diversity clause rooted in liberal values. The culture of robust engagement is alive and well in the DA, and it is something we are very proud of.”
Ramulifho also declined to discuss details of the meeting, only describing it as “robust”. He said: “It was a long and difficult meeting. We spent three hours debating the issues but eventually we found each other on the critical issues.”
Maimane declined to speak on the closed meeting. But those close to him said he won the battle for the federal council to have powers to recall its public representatives from office for misbehaving or failure to perform, among other things.
‘Robust engagement is alive and well in the DA, and it is something we are very proud of’