Mmusi Maimane leads South Africa’s official opposition
party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), with the hope of loosening the African
National Congress’ (ANC) tight political grip.
Maimane took the official oppositions’ reigns just over
three years ago, touted as the fresh face which would complement the DA’s brand
of inclusive change. While Maimane’s presence in the public eye has been
relatively short, already the leader has been forced to navigate the country’s
tumultuous political landscape.
Maimane’s childhood in brief
Mmusi Aloysias Maimane was born in Leratong Hospital in
Krugersdorp on 6 June 1980. His mother, Ethel Maimane, in a pharmaceutical
company and was originally from Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape. His father,
Simon Maimane, was born in Soweto and worked in a local lock factory.
Mmusi Maimane grew up in Dobsonville, Soweto. during the
height of apartheid’s oppressive political power. Maimane entered teenagerhood
as South Africa shrugged off the shackles of white-minority rule.
How Maimane got into politics
Maimane entered the political fray relatively late in life,
joining the DA in 2009 after applying his mind to various intellectual and
financial endeavours. Following his extensive educational career, Maimane ran
his own management consultancy and lectured at a business school in
Johannesburg, before he applied to run as a DA candidate for Johannesburg City
In 2011, a confident and aspirational Maimane applied to run
as the DA’s candidate for the position of Mayor of Johannesburg. The new kid on
the block, Maimane, defeated contender Vasco da Gama to be elected as the DA
mayoral candidate for Johannesburg.
He was fast-tracked through its ranks to take control in
His rapid promotion led to accusations that he was being
used by the party’s senior white activists to cover up lack of reform within
A gifted orator and smooth campaigner, he has kept the DA in
the spotlight, broadened its appeal and held together its warring factions.
Whether it’s trying to control Helen Zille’s social media habits or struggling
to land the punches on Ramaphosa as easily as he had with Jacob Zuma, Maimane’s
arguably got the worst job in South African politics.
Maimane not immune to controversy
The factional battles in his own party has kept him busy. And
Maimane’s struggled to win over the support of black mainstream politicians.
And while his record is the “cleanest” of the big three leaders,
he has had to contend with criticism for his views on gay marriage.
Most notably, it is his quote from an interview in 2015 –
that marriage and civil unions are two different things – that’s frequently
brought up as a sticking point.
A devout Christian, he has a master’s degree in Theology and
regularly preaches at church.
In 2015, shortly after being elected as DA leader, a video
circulated on social media where Maimane seemingly referred to gay and Muslim
people as “sinners”.
He clarified his comments, explaining that within his circle
of friends, which includes Muslim and gay people – everyone is a sinner,
labelling himself as the ‘chief sinner’.
He later said he was appalled by accusations that he was
homophobic and has been at pains to explain that he supports gay rights,
especially within the parameters of the South African constitution.
He further explained:
“Our church does not prescribe the laws to the country, its government. I don’t agree with everything that is said in our church, but the right exists for them to say that.”
Interesting facts about Mmusi Maimane
- Mmusi Maimane married his wife Natalie in 2005 after meeting in church six years earlier – they have two children, daughter Kgalaletso and son David Kgosi.
- Prior to his career in politics, Maimane worked as a business consultant and lectured at the Gordon Institute of Business Science.
- Maimane is a devout Catholic and preached at the Discovery Church in Randburg prior to being elected as the DA’s leader. He also preached at the Liberty Church under his first name Aloysias.
- According to the DA, Maimane can speak six languages: English, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho, Setswana and Sephedi.
- Maimane supports Kaiser Chiefs, Liverpool Football Club and the Lions rugby team.
- In the runup to the 2014 national elections, Maimane appeared in a political advert titled “Ayisafani” which was subsequently banned by the SABC for “inciting violence”. The DA challenged the ruling and the advert was reinstated.