Zille spills DA beans on ‘Madam Leader’ Mazibuko

2016-10-10 07:21
The cover of Zille's book, Not Without A Fight. (Supplied)

The cover of Zille's book, Not Without A Fight. (Supplied)

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Cape Town - Former DA leader Helen Zille reveals in detail the skulduggery and backstabbing that preceded Lindiwe Mazibuko's exit as DA parliamentary leader in her tell-all autobiography that hits the shelves this week.

Zille, the Western Cape premier, admits in Not Without a Fight that she was wrong to back Mazibuko in the race for parliamentary leader against the incumbent (and now Nelson Mandela Bay mayor) Athol Trollip.

"There was blood on the floor before a single vote had been cast," writes Zille about the divisive October 2011 campaign that led to Trollip being ousted as the DA's caucus leader.

Although she thought it was premature for Mazibuko to take over the reins in Parliament, Zille agreed to campaign for her against Trollip.

"I accepted that a thirty-one-year-old white person, who had been in Parliament for just two years, wouldn't stand a chance of being elected caucus leader. But we were not living in normal times, and I knew Lindiwe had the intellect and the political instinct to do it. Not once in her campaign had she played the race card. She was asking people to vote for the attributes she could bring to the position."

Mazibuko, whose campaign was driven by DA MP David Maynier like a "military operation", won by a differential of 9.5 votes.

Zille sensed immediate resistance from Mazibuko after she took over as DA leader in Parliament and realised she Mazibuko merely saw her election as a stepping stone to become the party's overall leader.

Zille reveals how Mazibuko had erected a "Berlin Wall" between the offices of the DA's party and parliamentary leaders:

- Mazibuko refused to share an office with Zille in Parliament;

- Three weeks into the job, Mazibuko fired Geordin Hill-Lewis, Zille’s "outstanding" chief of staff who was recruited by Mazibuko to help her set up an office;

- Mazibuko cancelled the practice of joint press conferences by the party and parliamentary leaders;

- DA MPs addressed Mazibuko as "Madam Leader";

- A plan was hatched to turn Mazibuko's office into the centre of the DA’s communication network, and

- Mazibuko initially refused to let Zille's stylist advise her about her wardrobe.

In a chapter titled The Plane Crash, Zille details the DA's failure under Mazibuko's leadership to properly interrogate and respond to new legislation on Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment and Employment Equity.

When Zille entered the debate, Mazibuko told her to "butt out of caucus affairs". After being assured by then chief whip Watty Watson that MPs had "done nothing wrong", Zille retrieved the minutes of the parliamentary debate on these issues.

"When I read them, I realised that Watty had either misled me or did not know what positions our members had taken. I blew a fuse, good and proper."

At a caucus meeting of November 7, 2013, Zille berated MPs for thinking they were "an island in the DA entire of itself". At one stage she heard Watson saying, "Well then, I’ll resign".

Watson "pressed the H-bomb's red button".

"I rounded on Watty. 'Yes, I think you should resign,' I said. 'You are the chief whip. You are responsible for internal parliamentary processes and if there was any accountability in this party you would have resigned already. You should not wait to be asked to do so.'

"There was a stunned silence. The caucus had never experienced anything like this before. Fortunately, at that point the caucus broke for tea. During the break Lindiwe tackled me and defended Watty, but I was having none of it."

Zille concluded that she would have to return to Parliament, but then Mmusi Maimane’s "name kept coming up".

"I was torn. I had enormous respect for Mmusi, who was a natural, but I was also acutely aware that Lindiwe had not been well served by such a rapid rise to the top slot in parliament, a premature move that had undoubtedly set back her career. I did not want this to happen to a second highly talented young politician."

Mazibuko didn't participate in the 2014 elections campaign due to surgery. Shortly after the election, Mazibuko told Zille the Sunday Times would run a story that she had been accepted at Harvard University and would resign from the DA.

"From the conversation it was obvious that the process had been stage-managed for months, culminating in the agreement to give the Sunday Times the story, as an 'exclusive'.

"Whatever. At least she had waited until after the election to make her announcement. That was helpful."

Then Gareth van Onselen, a former DA spokesperson now working for the Sunday Times, published a column in Business Day in which he claimed Zille pushed Mazibuko out for criticising her.

"I had warned Lindiwe's closed circle that she would be hurt the most if they publicly contradicted her stated reasons for going to Harvard. If the rest of us, who knew the truth, were prepared to go along with her reasons, it was amazing that they wouldn't – until I realised that this was actually part of The Plan. They thought they could spin it in order to turn Lindiwe into the victim, and harm me and Mmusi."

Mazibuko, Zille writes, realised she would be defeated as parliamentary leader after the election and wanted to avoid this.

Zille strongly denies ever saying that she had "made" or "saved" Mazibuko, as claimed by the Sunday Times.

After deciding not to go back to Parliament, Zille told her inner circle: "Don't fuck it up. Our party can't survive another plane crash."

- Order Not Without a Fight here: http://www.takealot.com/not-without-a-fight/PLID42162785

- Zille launches her book at the Cape Town Press Club on Monday at noon.

Read more on:    da  |  mmusi maimane  |  helen zille  |  lindiwe mazibuko  |  politics

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