Speculation rife around Zille's successor

South Africa's largest opposition party will choose new leadership on 9 May.

FILE: Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, along with DA Parliamentary Leader Mmusi Maimane. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Speculation is rife about who will take over the reins from outgoing Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille following her shock announcement on Sunday that she won't be standing for re-election.

Zille has been with the party for eight years and under her leadership, the DA won 22 percent of the national vote in last year's general election.

Zille said it wasn't an easy decision, but insisted the best time to leave was now.

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

Mmusi Maimane who leads the party in Parliament is seen as the front runner, while two relative unknowns, Jack Swart and Neil Els, have already thrown their hats into the ring.

South Africa's largest opposition party will choose new leadership on 9 May.

Maimane is said to be playing his cards close to his chest, insisting it was too early to announce a decision.

Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said Maimane's success would depend on Zille's endorsement.

"On his own, I don't think he has neither the gravitas nor the networks within the party being a recently embraced member in the recent years."

Meanwhile, Maimane's predecessor, Lindiwe Mazibuko, who has taken time out to study at Harvard University, publicly dismissed speculation that she might be throwing her hat in the ring.

Athol Trollip has also said he isn't gunning for the position.

To read her full statement, click here.