Mmusi Maimane on our “broken” country, *that* accent, and being ObamaLite

On Tuesday morning, Democrat Alliance parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane took some time to “hang out” with the Daily Vox and our executive editor, Khadija Patel. From the comparisons to Obama to the DA’s alternative budget, he opened up about Mmusi Maimane the man, and his party.

1. On the #SpyCables
The State Security Agency (SSA) this week faced one the most embarrassing moments since its establishment when Al Jazeera published a trove of intelligence leaks on Monday. Although numerous security agencies around the world are involved, South Africa in particular seems to at the centre of its very own Edward Snowden moment.

Maimane said it was “worrying” that sensitive information had been leaked to a news agency. The security breaches and information revealed in the Spy Cables – including an SSA plot with Ethiopia to assassinate an African leader – needed to be “interrogated properly”.

“As a South African, as a parliamentary leader, I feel very embarrassed that that information is out in the public domain,” Maimane said.

2. On fixing our “broken” country
During his debate speech, Maimane memorably told the president that he was a “broken man” presiding over a “broken society”. The word “broken” nearly became an internet meme, and has since become stuck in the nation’s public consciousness.

But what does a “fixed” South Africa look like?

“If your institution falls apart, democracy falls apart,” he said. “Strengthen Parliament, the National Prosecuting Authority and Chapter 9 institutions.”

Maimane said South Africa requires a strong “institutional capacity” because democracy “relies on institution”.

Economic inequality needs to be addressed, an inclusive economy must be built, and the quality of education improved.

“You’ve got to broaden the economic pool, so that you have less people outside the economic space,” he said.

3. On *that* accent
During his time as a prominent politician, Mmusi Maimane has perplexed South Africans with his versatile accent, noting that he adopts a different accent when speaking to black people or white people.

Asked to comment on this, Maimane grew bashful: “I don’t wake up in the morning and say I want to speak to these people like this, and I want speak to that people [like this]. Mmusi Maimane is Mmusi Maimane,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what space, what environment I’m in, I speak to people in the best way that I can.” Maimane added that he speaks a variety of African languages using the correct pronunciation and linguistic codes of each language, so that each person understands exactly what he says.

4. On being referred to as “Obama Lite” Since his rousing speech at the State of the Nation debate, some South Africans pegged Maimane as the DA’s black leader and have likened him to the US President Barack Obama.

So, just what does Maimane think of being referred to as “Obama Lite”?

“It’s certainly better than being called Mugabe Lite.”

5. On the focus for the #DAbudget
Maimane said the DA’s focus for the budget would be on developing small- and medium-sized infrastructure and making infrastructure 10% of the budget.

“There’s more focus on infrastructure, particularly infrastructure that’s economic in nature,” Maimane said, adding that the Telkom and Eskom monopolies need to be broken down so competitors can enter the market.

Watch the full interview here:

– Featured image supplied