THE BLOG
09/05/2018 04:44 SAST | Updated 09/05/2018 07:04 SAST

What Mmusi Maimane Should Do To Fix The DA

The DA leader must bring some of those outside his inner circle closer to him, if he wants to haul his party to a progressive position.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
DA leader Mmusi Maimane at the election results operations centre in Pretoria in 2016. If the DA wants to engineer its great breakthrough, it will have to move to a more progressive position.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane needs to put greater distance between himself and a neo-rightwing in his party and bring progressive leaders like Gauteng's Magashule Ghana and Tshwane's Solly Msimanga into his inner circle.

Weekend reports that Maimane had faced a mauling from within his caucus for naming "white privilege" as a factor in the country's inequality and poverty, is one more piece of evidence of a rising conservatism in the official opposition party. Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille was felled by this group, and her fight back has plunged the DA into a crisis.

Cardo and Davis are the brains trust of this new and powerful mini-caucus that sought Maimane to climb down from his position on 'white privilege'.

Ahead of the party's congress, two rising stars of this neocon caucus, Michael Cardo and Gavin Davis, succeeded in getting the DA to water down a progressive position on black advancement to a nebulous support for "diversity". Cardo and Davis are the brains trust of this new and powerful mini-caucus that sought Maimane to climb down from his position on "white privilege" in a speech he made on Freedom Day.

Other architects of this creeping conservatism in the DA are powerful members of Parliament such as chief whip John Steenhuisen, Mike Waters, Natasha Mazzone and Ghaleb Cachalia, as well as newly installed policy chief Gwen Ngwenya.

All of the members of this nascent brains trust in the DA are smart and hardworking young politicians and policy bosses, but their ideas can keep the party in its old laager

This movement of people is largely made up of classical liberals who — in a South African context of racialised poverty, anaemic black equity in workplaces and skewed land ownership — can fairly be called conservative in their positioning and thinking. They shy away from (or are mealy-mouthed on) black empowerment, effective land restitution, workplace equity and economic growth recipes that take account of South Africa's history and policy. Mazzone's tweet earlier this week that her "dark father from Naples" had "shown the value of hard work", displays this thinking.

All of the members of this nascent brains trust in the DA are smart and hard-working young politicians and policy bosses, but their ideas could keep the party in its old laager rather than aid the breakout position that Maimane is trying to craft as his legacy. This crew has access to Maimane's ear; but if he is to succeed in hauling his party to a more progressive position in South African politics, the young leader should bring more robustly progressive colleagues like Gana and Msimanga closer to him.

If Maimane is to succeed in hauling his party to a more progressive position, then the young leader should bring more robustly progressive colleagues like Gana and Msimanga closer to him.

When Maimane won the role of leader of the DA, he quoted Nadine Gordimer: "A truly living human being cannot remain neutral." This seems good advice for the difficult corner in which he now finds himself.