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Zille: The best time to leave is now

DA members go to the polls on 9 May and a day later a new leader will be announced.

FILE: Outgoing DA leader Helen Zille. Picture: Mia Lindeque/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Outgoing Democratic Alliance (DA) Leader Helen Zille says she will continue to play a pivotal role in the party without getting too involved.

After eight years at the helm of the country's main opposition party, Zille yesterday announced she would not be up for re-election next month.

Under her leadership, the DA won 22 percent of the national vote in last year's General Election.

Zille says it was definitely not an easy decision, but the best time to leave is now.

She says her passion for the party will not fade and she will continue to contribute as Western Cape Premier.

"In fact, they probably have to carry me out of a DA office on a stretcher one day and take me to the mortuary. I will continue working for this cause in appropriate ways, not getting in the way of new leadership."

DA members go to the polls on 9 May and a day later a new leader will be announced.

Zille says she's confident her decision to step down won't result in votes being lost, as South Africans tend to vote for parties and not personalities.

Her announcement has been met with mixed reaction from political parties, DA supporters and members of the public on social media.

Could #HelenZille be heading to the biggest revolutional party in the land

Good leaders know when to step down and give others a chance to lead.... #HelenZille

Helen this could have been you, but #HelenZillehasfallen https://t.co/LTDduQGlta

Basically Helen is resigning yet she will be controlling whoever is elected as party leader...caammmee aannn Helen! #HelenZillehasfallen

JZ must be like, This is THE BEST BDAY PRESENT EVA!!! #HelenZilleHasFallen pic.twitter.com/VkgIy9GZsD

And just like that inspiration this early on a Monday... #PowerfulWomen #HelenZille #HillaryClinton

I'm sure the DA will continue strong with Helen who laid a strong foundation! #HopeforSA #DA #HelenZille

Zille says they want to get rid of the notion that the DA is only a party for a certain group of society.

"That are a party for one section of the population, because it is a lie. And you actually all know it is a lie."

She was also asked whether the party is specifically looking to employ a young black person to replace her.

"I believe the DA needs to have an excellent leader and we don't believe that we have to measure that against criteria."

Zille says she has learnt from her previous mistakes, and will this time not get involved in the internal leadership race debate.

LISTEN: Outgoing Democratic Alliance Helen Zille speaks on her decision not to run for re-election at the party's elective congress on 9 May.

Meanwhile, some political parties have described Zille's decision to step down as long overdue.

Speculation is rife as to who will take over the reins from the now former DA leader.

Click here to read Zille's announcement.

REACTION

Agang SA's Andries Tlouamma says he hopes the DA will diversify.

"The DA has reached its notch. I think the time has come, if possible, for the DA, to start looking into representing the demographic of this country."

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) Blessed Gwala says, "As a leader of the DA, we thought that she would be able to defy the decisions that are there in the province of KwaZulu-Natal where the leaders there are up in arms, fighting against each other as they head towards the elections."