Black challenger threatens ANC across South Africa’s racial divide


Black challenger threatens ANC across South Africa’s racial divide


¬© Mike Hutchings/Reuters Mmusi Maimane, the first black leader of South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), addresses a DA election rally in Johannesburg

18 June 2015

Young, charismatic and pro-business, DA’s first black leader, Mmusi Maimane, could be the poster boy for the racially inclusive, socially equal “Rainbow Nation” envisioned by the late Nelson Mandela.

Unfortunately for Maimane, two decades after the end of apartheid, South Africa is still racially divided, starkly unequal and his party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), is struggling to shake off its image as a white, elitist movement.

Maimane, who won a DA leadership race last month, believes he can overturn deep-rooted perceptions about his party and end the dominance of the African National Congress (ANC).

“It’s important for symbolism to have a black leader,” Maimane, who is married to a white South African woman, told Reuters.

“It shows people we are a party for everyone, black or white, Indian or coloured,” said the muscular Maimane, 35, dressed in a DA polo shirt, tailored trousers and suede shoes.

Maimane is expected to broaden the appeal of the DA, which won 22 percent of the national vote in last year’s general election under the leadership of his white predecessor Helen Zille, against 62 percent for the ANC.

But the party still has a powerful white second-tier leadership and the ANC has branded Maimane as the black face of a white party. ANC lawmaker Lindiwe Sisulu once described the former preacher from the Soweto township as a “hired native”.

“This is just a propaganda tactic of the ANC because it’s all they’ve got,” Maimane told Reuters from a rundown part of Johannesburg where he was launching his first policy campaign.

“You can’t win elections forever by just using racially emotive language. Voters see through this crap.”-Reuters