Who can forget Mmusi Maimane’s speech in parliament in 2015, when he was still the DA’s parliamentary leader, in which he told President Jacob Zuma: “You are not an honourable man. You are a broken man, presiding over a broken society.”
It was a standout moment for him as a politician. That was in February 2015, about three months before he would be elected the new leader of the DA. It was unexpected; Helen Zille had announced only four weeks earlier that she had decided to step down.
At the time Zille reflected on her own tenure, saying: “Although parties have constitutions and decision-making structures, much of the job of the leader boils down to decisions and actions informed by intuition; one has to ‘read’ a situation and try to get as ‘close to the reality’ as possible before reaching a conclusion. And whether the decision turns out, over time, to have been right or wrong, there are always people who oppose it. That is the nature of politics.”
Since his election as DA leader two years ago, Maimane has had to put up with critics ridiculing him as Zille’s puppet. His biggest test by far has been dealing with Zille’s colonialism tweets. The matter has been dragging on for months.
Maimane this weekend did exactly what Zille spoke about in her 2015 statement. He took a decision, probably “informed by intuition”, and announced her suspension. Now it appears he flouted the DA’s constitution and that she in fact has 72 hours to supply reasons why she should not be suspended.
This confusion does not serve him well. Maimane was clearly acting ahead of himself, but there was nothing wrong with his intentions. It was about time he took a stand on Zille. But for a real breakout moment to happen for him, he needs to get the basics right first.