South Africa: DA - a Party Stoking Its Funeral Pyre?

Mmusi Maimane, left, announces his resignation as leader of South Africa's opposition Democratic Alliance. Behind him at the press conference are Helen Zille, the party's newly elected Federal Council Chairperson, centre, and Athol Trollip, who resigned as party chairperson on the same day.

For a while, Mmusi Maimane was a particularly good choice to lead an opposition party that was forever in the ascendancy. With that growth now under threat, the DA is now a conflict-ridden organisation he might find impossible to lead anymore.

The resignation of Herman Mashaba as mayor of Johannesburg following the election of Helen Zille as Democratic Alliance federal council chair has led to inevitable speculation about the future of the party's leader, Mmusi Maimane.

It does appear, for the moment at least, that a situation has been created that is impossible for Maimane to manage, or even to survive as the leader of the country's leading opposition party. At the same time, the party's report into its losses in the May elections makes a particular finding that all of the party's top leadership should resign.

However, this all ignores what is still the most important question facing the DA: who could possibly replace Maimane? That leads to the sub-question: can the party stay together in an environment that is likely to become only more contested?

Maimane is in a terribly uncomfortable position. Zille's election is about much more than just her and Maimane. It is also about the...

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