DA leadership race gains momentum

DA Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane is seen as a frontrunner to succeed Helen Zille.

FILE: DA supporters sing the national anthem during a rally. Picture: Lauren Isaacs/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The race for the top post in the Democratic Alliance (DA) is becoming clearer with less than two weeks before the deadline for nominations closes.

DA Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane is seen as a frontrunner to succeed Helen Zille, who after leading the party for eight years, announced on Sunday that she won't be available for re-election.

While Maimane is staying silent on whether he'll run for the position of DA leader, it now seems that he will face almost no competition if he does.

Maimane's predecessor Lindiwe Mazibuko, who left to study at Harvard University in the United States in 2014, has denied speculation that she will throw her hat in the ring while the party's chief whip also said he's not in the running.

The DA will hold its elective conference on 9 May.

LISTEN to Democratic Alliance Parliamentary Leader Mmusi Maimane's reaction to Helen Zille's announcement she won't be running for re-election in the party's 9 May congress.

Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said the race will be an important factor.

"Others look at the young leaders with less experience who have been put forward and they start wondering if this is not affirmative action in a party that is not embracing affirmative action policy."

At the same time, Eastern Cape DA leader Athol Trollip said he wants to campaign for the post of federal chair rather than run for the position as party leader.

Trollip told Eyewitness News that he won't reveal who he's backing in the run up to the party's elective conference.

"I will back up anybody who personifies non-racialism. That means the right leader for the DA would be black or white or brown or he or she."

While it seems this race is Maimane's for the taking, he still has to say he will run and dispel criticism that he may be too young.

ZILLE CONFIDENT DA WILL DO WELL

Meanwhile, Zille says she's confident the party will grow its support base at the municipal elections next year.

She believes her successor and the party will do well.

"I have often wondered whether I should go for 10 years or up, and then I decided that now is the time. I think if we can get a new team we can do even better in the 2016 election than we would have done under me."

LISTEN: Helen Zille discusses her announcement to step down as leader of the Democratic Alliance.

So far only two relative unknowns, Jack Swart and Neil Els, have put their names forward.