DA tried to woo Manuel – WikiLeaks

2011-09-05 09:40

DA leader Helen Zille was prepared to stand down last year in favour of minister in the presidency Trevor Manuel if he had defected to the opposition party, but he failed to react to the DA’s advances to him, according to a WikiLeaks cable.

Zille spoke to Media24 Investigations yesterday after being told about a conversation between the DA’s parliamentary leader Athol Trollip and US ambassador to South Africa, Donald Gips, which was recorded in the confidential cable sent to the United States government.

The cable forms part of the 250 000 US diplomatic cables leaked to whistle-blower website WikiLeaks last year.

Media24 Investigations has independently obtained an encrypted, leaked file containing all the diplomatic cables, thousands of which concern South Africa and southern Africa, and which have not emerged before.

Manuel ‘not happy in the ANC’ In one of them, dated February last year, Trollip is reflected telling Gips that he believed “Manuel, who is the best mind in the ANC, is not happy in the party and noted that the current leader of the DA, Helen Zille, would give Manuel the DA party leadership if Manuel were to jump ship”.

On Friday Trollip said his reference to Manuel was a “metaphorical example”. He denied there were direct discussions between DA leaders and Manuel.

“In the DA we are very serious about providing a leadership alternative to the ANC. Our leadership is therefore not set in stone. I could just as well have named [deputy president] Kgalema Motlanthe,” he said.

Zille explained yesterday that the DA consistently tries to make contact with people who promise to strengthen opposition to the ANC and that those contacts are strictly confidential and sensitive.

“It is cautious and often prolonged contact that is sometimes successful. An example, which lasted four years, was getting a great leader like Patricia de Lille on board and we can see now how strong her contribution is,” she said.

DA leadership “Political boundaries are not always exactly the same as party boundaries. Differences often exist within parties, and to grow, those with similar beliefs must come together, outside of traditional boundaries, to work together.

I have often said I would stand back if there is anyone that can grow the DA faster than me. Who that might be rests with DA members, not me,” she said.

Dumisa Jela, head of Manuel’s office, said: “The minister has no comment.”As a policy, the US government does not comment on the contents of the leaked diplomatic cables.

Political commentator Daniel Silke said the WikiLeaks cables needed to be treated cautiously as the full context of some of the conversations they reflect was not always apparent.

He said that leadership of the DA was an issue over the longer term and that growth for the party would be driven more significantly from a split in the ANC, which could take years, rather than by the profile of a specific DA leader.

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