‘She would have lost’

2014-05-14 00:00

CAPE TOWN — A strong possibility existed that Lindiwe Mazibuko would have lost the election as the DA’s parliamentary leader, the party’s leader Helen Zille said yesterday.

She also confirmed that she had offered Mazibuko the Gauteng premier candidacy, but that Mazibuko had turned it down.

Zille yesterday pulled no punches in an interview in talking about Mazibuko’s “Plan B” — she is going to pursue a masters degree at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.

Mazibuko shocked voters and the party hierarchy at the weekend when she suddenly resigned from the party.

Asked about the real reason behind Mazibuko’s decision, Zille answered, “She would have lost the election in that caucus. She knew it — and many people knew it.

“I am sure it [Harvard] was her Plan B,” Zille said.

She declined to elaborate on the reasons behind this conclusion, but it was clear the she is worried about how the system of two “power centres” — that of party leader and parliamentary leader — unfolded in the past parliamentary term.

Dr Wilmot James, who chairs the caucus, said the DA’s party leader and its parliamentary leader should be the same person, as two power bases made the situation untenable, which was why he would not make himself available for any of the DA’s key posts in Parliament. “Helen may not agree, but we can agree to differ.”

He said the parliamentary leader’s job was made more difficult when the caucus received political guidance from outside, which always forced the parliamentary leader’s views to take a back seat.

Gareth van Onselen, a former DA MP, also pointed out the issue in a cutting opinion piece earlier this week.

James, however, cautioned it was a “structural problem” in the DA that should not be reduced to personalities.

Zille said the post of parliamentary leader was autonomous, but subject to teamwork between party members.

“People are elected to execute specific tasks and I give them all the space to do that work, but expect that they will still co-operate as one team with the same vision. That’s all.”

A group of MPs in the DA caucus acknowledged in confidence yesterday that Mazibuko would not have been re-elected as parliamentary leader, especially as Mmusi Maimane, the DA’s national spokesperson and the favourite to succeed Mazibuko, is going to Parliament.

Zille said she had never in her life done as much to advance the career of any individual as she had done for Mazibuko. She said she wanted Mazibuko to join the party when she did an interview with its members as a student and felt strongly Mazibuko had to go to Parliament, and started her off on that career by appointing Mazibuko as national spokesperson and then supporting her for the post of parliamentary leader.

Zille denied that the same pattern is developing with Maimane, who will probably be elected as the DA’s parliamentary leader.

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