Posted on Monday, 13 April 2015 12:49

South Africa's biggest opposition leader Helen Zille to Resign

By Crystal Oderson in Cape Town

Photo©ReutersThe leader of South Africa's main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA) Hellen Zille will step down from her post next month.

Zille announced the shock move on Sunday ahead of the DA's federal conference on May 9.

it has the potential to do even better under a fresh new leadership team

She has been at the helm of the party for the past eight years and oversaw the DA's spectacular growth, which saw it double its support across South Africa.

Zille's decision to step down appears to have taken even her own party by surprise.

She told journalists at the Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg that she made the decision last week.

"I know it's slightly early...but believe me, you don't want to be the kind of leader that everyone says, 'When the hell is she going to get out of that job?' And you don't want to be slightly late," she said.

Her departure is likely to see a fierce contest for the top post but DA's parliamentary leaders, Mmusi Miamane is seen as a firm favourite.

"My decision to stand down is because although I believe the party will grow under my leadership in 2016 at the local government elections, it has the potential to do even better under a fresh new leadership team, and my role as the leader of the DA is to make sure that we maximize our votes,"

Zille said the decision to step down was taken last week.

"This decision has, paradoxically, been a long time coming — but when the time was right, it was taken quickly, even suddenly, On Thursday last week, I took a firm decision that I would not stand for re-election as leader next month," she said.

However, Zille would remain the premier of the Western Cape until 2019.

"It goes without saying that I intend to complete my second term as premier of the Western Cape, to which I was elected in May last year," she said.

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