President Cyril Ramaphosa’s name has cropped up among DA members who feel party leader Mmusi Maimane’s time is up – but you’re unlikely to see the opposition wooing the ANC’s chief anytime soon.
Rather, Maimane has faced criticism from some within his own quarters over his handling of Bosasa claims linked to Ramaphosa and the ANC.
It was Maimane’s revelation of a R500,000 donation by former Bosasa chief Gavin Watson to the president which led to the public protector investigating contributions to Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign.
The DA’s political strategy since Jacob Zuma’s departure as both ANC and state president has been widely questioned, and in many instances Maimane has taken the brunt of that criticism as the head of the country’s second-biggest party.
Maimane is facing increasing pressure from within his own party, following revelations that he used a car hired by disgraced former Steinhoff chief executive Markus Jooste. The claim comes weeks after it was revealed that he had declared a R4-million Claremont house in the parliamentary assets registry, even though he didn’t own the property and was only renting it.
On Sunday, Rapport revealed that Maimane had driven around for months in a car hired by Jooste’s company, after indicating that it would be returned.
On the same day, the Sunday Times reported that Mike Waters, a senior DA member and MP, had demanded to see proof that Maimane was indeed paying his own rent at his Cape Town home.
Maimane responded to both these reports by describing the claims as part of a “smear campaign”.
The DA’s head in KwaZulu-Natal, Zwakhele Mncwango, said “not everyone is happy” with Maimane’s handling of Watson’s donation to Ramaphosa’s campaign.
“Some even say this is also about Ramaphosa. He can’t be touched. When it was (former president Jacob) Zuma it was perfectly fine. They applauded when Zuma was being taken to the courts [and] the public protector, and now that it’s Cyril, not everyone is happy,” says Mncwango.
“Ramaphosa is protected by many,” he said.
Mncwango said he believed Maimane’s version of events regarding the Steinhoff-hired car and the Claremont home.
Maimane has also labelled what’s unfolding around him a smear campaign.
A national leader who asked to remain anonymous said it was difficult explaining to frustrated donors why Maimane had approached the public protector over Ramaphosa’s links to controversial firm Bosasa (now known as African Global Operations).
“It’s hard. It’s really difficult dealing with donors because of their attitude towards Cyril, but in this instance, I actually agree with Mmusi’s actions. We shouldn’t have been expected to turn a blind eye because they like him so much,” said the national leader.
“Who do we become if we fail to adhere to the rule of law and ignore some people ’cause they are likable?”
Several news reports last month indicated the party had to cut jobs due to its dismal showing at the polls, resulting in a loss of both state and donor funds.
Analysts seem to agree that Ramaphosa is one of the many issues that has hampered Maimane’s leadership.
“Why invest in the immature product when you can get a fully grown product, already in charge,” asked political analyst and News24 columnist Dr Ralph Mathekga.
He said donors were probably seeing Maimane as a cheap imitation of Ramaphosa.
Mathekga, however, takes issue with local donors behaving like lobbyists who seek a particular outcome in elections and align themselves with the big winner at the polls.
“Donors must think deeply. Their obsession with personalities will have a detrimental impact on the country. They must be called out. They are lobbyists and tilt the scale in their favour.”
He said shunning the DA purely based on its electoral performance was just sad.
Another political analyst and author, Ebrahim Fakir, shares Mathekga’s views on Maimane, describing the donors’ concerns as naive.
“It is purely a case of why get the imitation if you gonna get the real deal,” he says.
He said the issue with this view was that donors seemed to believe Ramaphosa would actually deliver on his promises, highlighting that this showed they lacked an understanding of how the ANC functioned or even hampered its own president when it came to executing some of the promises he’s made.
Both analysts do not absolve Maimane from any wrongdoing, agreeing he must shoulder some of the blame for his own woes.
Mathekga, who referred to the DA leader as his predecessor Helen Zille’s “failed project”, said the party was struggling with genuine issues of growth and that Maimane hadn’t been “helpful”.
“He hasn’t been helpful, but neither has his party. A strong leader is needed, one who can articulate a vision for the party and rein in difficult personalities,” says Mathekga.
Fakir is of the opinion that the time has come for Maimane’s role as leader to be assessed with brutal honesty.
“Mmusi has been short-sighted, inconsistent, shown that he is unable to craft a considered and coherent vision, and then lead it,” said Fakir.
He rubbishes the “building one South Africa for all” concept, which was Maimane’s core message leading up to the elections, claiming everyone had that vision for the country.
Fakir said it may be that donors didn’t trust or believe in Maimane.
“They see through him. Seasoned capitalists know if one is genuine or not; if they know what they are talking about, and have the ability take the vision they have and instrumentalise it,” remarked Fakir.
He also dismisses the notion that Maimane has grown the DA, crediting the growth to Zille and her predecessor, Tony Leon.
Both analysts also refer to the state of metros run by the DA, noting growing concerns over corruption and mismanagement.
The DA, through coalitions and an informal partnership with the EFF, managed to gain control of two out of the three metros in Gauteng – the City of Tshwane and the City of Joburg.
“Everyone underestimated how much their partnership (with EFF) has cost them, especially with their white supporters,” observes Fakir.
Mathekga said that while some of the DA’s current challenges were expected, it was how the party responded that matters most.
“They have to find a way around this, otherwise they will run straight into a glass ceiling,” he concluded.
Fakir argues some members knew when Maimane was first elected leader in 2014 it wouldn’t work out in the long run but pushed ahead with it anyway.
He told News24 the DA had a chance to still reclaim lost ground but would probably need a new leader “the sooner the better” to do this.