One of the most senior politicians in South Africa’s historically white main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has resigned his post and quit the party over how it handles race.
Herman Mashaba’s election victory in 2016 saw him become the first non-ANC mayor of Johannesburg since 1994.
But at a press conference on Monday he said:
“I cannot reconcile myself with people who believe that race is not important in their discussion of inequalities.”
He said his decision was sparked by the re-admission of Helen Zille, a white politician who provoked widespread anger in 2017 when she praised aspects of colonialism, to the party’s high ranks:
“The election of [Helen] Zille as chair of federal council is victory for people who are opposed to my belief systems.”
Mr Mashaba also said the government’s “pro-poor agenda” has been “undermined, criticised and rendered nearly impossible” by the DA.
Mr Mashaba was seen as a key ally of the party’s first black leader, Mmusi Msimane, in his efforts to increase support among black voters.
But the DA’s share of the vote dropped in the May general election after conservative whites abandoned the party, and Ms Zille’s return to a senior post in the party is seen as an attempt to regain their support.
Mr Mashaba said he would step down next month, raising questions about whether the DA would be able to retain the mayoral post in Johannesburg.