His critics call Mmusi Maimane too young and suspiciously black. Others say he’s far too ‘white’. But he calls this sort of politics reactive and outdated. Maimane lives in the present with his eyes on tomorrow. As DA leader Helen Zille says: “In many ways, Mmusi Maimane symbolises our party’s future.”
Maimane grew up in Soweto and read his BA in psychology through Unisa. Thereafter he did a master’s in theology through Bangor University in Wales, and just recently completed a second masters in public administration.
He crafted a successful career in business, consulting on topics such as change management, succession and talent retention, and taught at the Gordon Institute of Business Science. Maimane then moved almost organically into politics. He clicked with the DA, which made him its mayoral candidate for Johannesburg in 2011. Later that year he was made the party’s national spokesperson.
Where Barack Obama used “change” to mobilise a nation, Maimane talks about “proactivity”. He wants schools to go digital; ecofriendly public transport; andefficient online billing from municipalities. “I just don’t see the willingness in government,” he says.
He also prides himself on being hands-on. Whether it’s open toilets in the Free State or reports on the military-style Kommandokorps training, you are likely to see Maimane investigating the issue in person. In April he joined schoolchildren in the Eastern Cape for their daily 12km walk to school.
Political hustling frustrates Maimane, but he knows “it’s worth it for those hard-fought victories”, which he sees as anything from helping one constituent to solve a problem to effecting major political developments in DA-run Western Cape.
What lies ahead for the far-sighted Maimane? Near- term he is considering a doctorate in economics, and would love to see his party win two more cities. And “if the DA ever governs,” he says, “I want to play right at the top.”
— Ian Macleod