James Joins South African Main Opposition Leadership Race

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Wilmot James, chairman of South Africa’s Democratic Alliance, will run against Mmusi Maimane for the leadership of the country’s main opposition party at elections next month.

“I have decided to stand for election for Leader of the Democratic Alliance,” James wrote on his Twitter feed. “During the two weeks before Congress I will share my vision for the future of the DA and South Africa.”

Helen Zille, head of the Democratic Alliance for the past eight years, said April 12 she will step down to make way for possibly the party’s first black leader. She helped to boost the DA’s support in last year’s election to 22.2 percent from 16.7 percent in 2009, yet the party has struggled to gain traction among black voters and the African National Congress won with 62.2 percent of the vote. Maimane, 34, is the DA’s parliamentary head.

“I surely welcome his candidacy -- this is a democracy,” Maimane said by phone. “We believe we will win the next election and we look forward to our campaigns.”

James said he was willing to take part in a public debate with Maimane about the future of South Africa ahead of the leadership vote. Maimane said he was prepared for debates and had five already scheduled.

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