Former DA Leader Tells Mmusi Maimane To Go Back To Message

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CAPE TOWN: Former Democratic Allliance leader Tony Leon says the party which he led need to get back on message and end infighting in the organisation.

He says that an interview by Mmusi Maimane, the current leader, may turn out to be a car crash interview and will blow away. Maimane said in the interview with the Sunday Times that it had been a mistake to keep on Helen Zille on after he, Maimane, became leader in 2015. 

But Leon says that at a book launch of Jan-Jan Jouberts Who will rule 2019 at Stellenbosch at the weekend, he sensed that there was a lot of disillusionment among DA voters; noting that the university town was a hotbed of DA support, at least traditionally.

“Maimane had his strengths including building the base of the party. He had created a good following but clearly with the Sunday Times interview he had gone off-message.

“The message of the DA had to be consistent and strong and repeated. They have to get back to what they are best at,” he said. 

He also acknowledged that he had also had some car crash interviews in his day as leader.

“The message shold not be about a party divided against ourselves,” said Leon.

“It should not focus on infighting, and where there were challenges these needed to be resolved swiftly.”

Maimane should be addressing the disillusionment in the party. That is what the party and Mmusi should be addressing not having a cicular firing squad, he said.

Leon indicated that the Maimane interview was indiscreet. Zille, who followed him as leader in 2006, said she should now remain silent. In reference to Maimane, he said that he should have borne in mind that the party had decided to keep her on as the premier when he took over from her as national leader in 2015. I dont think one should go back and forth (over) what one should have done or might have done.

Noting that the Sunday Times had commented in its editorial that it should get rid of the white leaders in the DA, such as James Selfe, John Steenhuizen and Athol Trollip. However, Leon said “this was not a helpful contribution to the debate. If you do that before an election you are on a hiding to nothing.”

He believed the Ramaphoria would die out before the next election.

“The DA could in the months ahead focus on the political potholes of the ANC. One large one, for example, is how Ramaphosa will deal with Eskom, the state owned power enterprise, which was a danger to the fiscus,” he said. 

Maimane, whom he said had delivered a great speech in reply to the Presidents budget vote speech in parliament recently, should repeatgood performances like that. They needed to be repeated over time. One has to keep doing it not be distracted.

“References to internal politics within the party should be dealt with as internal housekeeping. It should not become a matter of public discussion,” Leon said.

Pressed on whether there was room for a new pure liberal party in the South African political market place, Leon said: no, he did not believe so.