Helen Zille’s departure as head of South Africa’s main opposition party paves the way for the Democratic Alliance to choose its first black leader to draw voters away from the ruling party before next year’s municipal elections.
Zille, 64, told reporters in Johannesburg on Sunday that she won’t make herself available for re-election at the party’s May 9 federal congress. The DA hasn’t disclosed any candidates that will seek the leadership post.
In the eight years at the helm of the party, Zille boosted the DA’s support in elections to 22.2 percent in last year’s vote from 16.7 percent in 2009. Still, the party has struggled to gain traction among black voters and is under pressure to choose a black leader. Mmusi Maimane, 34, the DA’s parliamentary head, is among the leading candidates to succeed Zille, according to political analysts, including Daniel Silke, director of Political Futures Consultancy.