South Africa: The DA's MMexit Mess - Soap Opera Politics of a Special Kind

Former Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane, left; new DA Federal Council Chairperson, Helen Zille, centre; and former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba.

The 2021 local government elections are around the corner and the DA will need to deal with its demons by then. What is its core identity? It has veered from social democratic on one day to neo-liberal on another and then to its liberal roots on yet another day.

Such drama. Such melodrama. How else to describe Helen Zille's return to politics? This past weekend, Zille barnstormed and won the contest to become chair of the Democratic Alliance's federal council. It came across as a little tone-deaf. Did South Africans really need more of Zille on their Twitterfeed and in the media, relentlessly trying to set the world to rights and in so doing always actually trying to prove herself right?

What has now become clear is that she did not think through the consequences of her actions carefully enough. Neither did her supporters. Her return has laid bare the divisions within the DA and will have a ripple effect on opposition politics in South Africa.

The ANC must be looking on, slightly bemused. Factionalism is the new normal when South Africa is in desperate need of an opposition which is truly able to hold the ANC to account for...

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