Maimane's Obama moment

MAY 11, 2015

History was made when the Democratic Alliance (DA) voted in Parliamentary leader, Mmusi Maimane, 34, as new party leader on Sunday - making him the first black person to head the traditionally white party. Maimane, affectionately called Soweto's Obama, is now expected to grow the party and give it wider appeal with black voters.

Charismatic, popular and well-spoken, Maimane, was widely seen as the obvious choice to replace outgoing DA Helen Zille, who announced last month that she would not be standing for re-election at the party’s national congress in Port Elizabeth over the weekend.

Even his opponent, then Federal Chairperson, Wilmot James, conceded that the odds were heavily stacked against him; “The numbers are not in my favour,” he told the Star.

Social media went abuzz at the announcement that Maimane had been elected new DA leader. Upon taking the podium, Maimane immediately extended an olive branch to James and his supporters.

“Sometimes we disagree with each other, but we disagree because we care so much about the future of this country, and that’s okay,” he said.

The DA’s Nelson Mandela Bay mayoral candidate in the 2016 local government elections - Athol Trollip, was also elected the new federal chairman of the party.

Meteoric rise

Maimane has had a meteoric rise through the ranks of the DA. In 2011, he arrived on the scene when he was elected DA national spokesman. That same year, he stood as the party’s Joburg mayoral candidate and lost to the ANC.

He then took up a seat as the DA leader in the Joburg city council.

In the 2014 National General Elections, Maimane ran as the DA’s Gauteng Premier candidate and later took a seat in Parliament after losing the Premiership race.

Following the announcement by then parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko – viewed by many as Zille’s heir apparent – that she was stepping down to study at Harvard, Maimane was elected leader of the opposition in Parliament.

Mixed reactions on Twitter;