10/05/2018 11:05 SAST | Updated 10/05/2018 11:05 SAST

Mmusi Maimane: Where Did He Go Wrong?

Analysts say it is problematic to isolate problems in Maimane's leadership from other issues facing the party.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane speaks during a news conference in Johannesburg. April 1, 2016.
Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
DA leader Mmusi Maimane speaks during a news conference in Johannesburg. April 1, 2016.

Mmusi Maimane's leadership of the DA has come under the microscope as the opposition party faces one crisis after another.

First, reports emerged that Maimane was taken to task by his federal council for comments he made on white privilege. Then there is the reputational damage that the party admits it suffered through its handling of former Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille's axing.

So, where then did Maimane go wrong? Or has he gone wrong at all?

Political analyst Gareth van Onselen said that although there have "without question" been a number of deficiencies within Maimane's leadership of the DA, "it would be problematic to isolate Maimane's leadership in and of itself. Various other issues in the general leadership structures of the party come together to play a role in the current situation. The party is not making the right decisions in unison."

READ: What Mmusi Maimane Should Do To Fix The DA.

"The first problem is that there is a lack of coherent strategy. The second problem is a lack of conviction — Maimane tends to compromise too often, when sometimes a harder stance is needed. The third problem is disunity. The party is not at war with itself, but the party's machinery is at odds with Maimane and those aligned to him."

Van Onselen said it is not true that Maimane does not have a grip on the DA.

"Maimane was elected unopposed, but when it comes to enjoying the support of his members on certain issues, that's another story. So there is no crisis of legitimacy. It is a case of disunity among ideas and ideology, along with ongoing internal squabbles that have affected the DA under Maimane."

Independent political commentator Lawrence Fengu said Maimane has always done what's right for the party's constituencies.

"He has toed the line, but only for the DA's main constituency. But now he may realise that to take the party further, things need to be done differently. For him to win elections, he needs to do something radically different. The white constituency won't grow — the DA will have to make more inroads into black constituencies," Fengu said.

"Now there must be a message that appeals to the disenfranchised black constituencies. But that difference of message will not be received well among conservatives in his party. That's where the problems will stem from."