Embattled DA leader Mmusi Maimane says he will not resign as head of the party, should it fail to grow beyond 22% at the polls next year.

Next year’s general election will be Maimane’s first at the helm of the party, which has in recent months scored a series of embarrassing own goals.

“I am focused on growing the organisation. No, no I won’t resign. I am focused on saying: ‘This party must grow and has to grow.’ The project is much bigger than 22%, the project is a historic one,” said Maimane during an interview with City Press this week.

“Whatever happens in next year’s elections, [as] long as I am still committed to fighting for that dream of non-racialism and there are people in the DA who want to fight for that dream, they must come with me.

“We will always be that party in the middle that says, let us all work together. That mission is what animates me. It doesn’t matter, I will continue to lead towards it, I will continue to fight for diversity. That is why I will continue to fight for inclusion, even with the opposition, even with people saying things that I disagree with fundamentally. It is that worthwhile.”

City Press understands that some in the party believe that Maimane is already on borrowed time and that, should the DA fail to go beyond the 22% it scored at the polls in 2014, the party leader would be forced to step down.

The DA’s most recent faux pas played itself out in social media, where MPs claimed that the party had abandoned its broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) policy.

At the time Maimane made no public comment on the matter. He told City Press that there would be no consequences for those who seemed to misrepresent the party position, saying that there was a “miscommunication” and that there was no “intolerance for debate” in the DA.

“There was miscommunication around saying the DA has rejected race as a proxy. That is not true. We were very strong as the federal executive, we came out and I was direct about saying this is our stance on BBBEE. I have maintained the position that race is still a proxy for disadvantage and that inequality is still born primarily out of issues of race.”

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The BBBEE debate and whether or not race should remain the proxy for the disadvantaged will now go to the party’s commission for policy review. City Press has learnt that the matter was raised during a sitting of the parliamentary caucus this week and debated there.

Maimane is on the clock to achieve a personal commitment that he has made to bringing about transformation in the party, which he hopes will be reflected by growing its support among black voters.

“I am serious about it [transformation]. What is the job of leadership? Leadership is asking people to go where they don’t want to go sometimes. Leadership is about standing up and saying: ‘You can oppose this thing.’

“If nobody opposes you, are you changing the organisation? If people don’t feel a change then are you confronting the status quo? I think I have been. I have been very intentional about confronting the status quo. That is why I want diverse lists for 2019.”

Former party leader Helen Zille also remains an albatross around Maimane’s neck with her ongoing tweets about colonialism, the very same act which saw her removed from party structures last year.

“I disagree with Helen’s tweets. We have written to her to say she must stop communicating on this, because it is not helpful or consistent with the agreement we have reached with her,” he said, referring to last year’s agreement.

“Remember this matter is also now at the equality court, so I think we don’t want, as a party, to interfere with that process.”

Despite Zille’s ongoing tweets being in contravention of the agreement, Maimane has no real plan to move against her. In recent weeks her inclusion on the Western Cape selection panel, which recommends who goes to Parliament, caused a stir in the party. Maimane this week went to bat for the decision to include her in that process.

“Selection panels are big panels, she is not the only person there, there are many others.

“I think because she remains in government, there is something helpful about having someone who understands government going forward. But remember, all recommendations will land up at federal executive and Helen Zille does not serve there.”

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