Tensions high in DA over ‘debacle’: Struggle for power denied

2013-11-09 00:00

TENSION in the DA is high following this week’s “plane crash” by the official opposition.

Sister paper Beeld reveals that:

• DA leader Helen Zille wanted to fire the chief whip on the spot over this week’s chaos surrounding the Employment Equity Amendment Bill;

• The party’s parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko told Zille during a heated caucus meeting on Thursday not to interfere in her business;

• Mazibuko told DA head of communications Gavin Davis in an e-mail in May that “as with any bill”, this one would be handled by the caucus;

• Davis wanted to called a press conference to discuss “issues identified by Helen” in the bill; and

• DA MPs anticipate a wholesale reshuffle next week and “no MP feels safe in their portfolio”.

Zille and her supporters were last night trying to put out fires following this week’s debacle and emphasised her continuing support of Mazibuko.

“Zille said in caucus she stands behind Lindiwe and still has full confidence in the leader of the caucus,” sources told Beeld.

Caucus members who could be shifted from their portfolios are apparently those on the labour committee, Sej Motau and Andricus van der Westhuisen.

It is gathered that they are being held largely responsible for the drama, in which the party was said to support the Equity Amendment Bill.

Zille was reportedly “beyond furious” when she met with the two MPs.

They supported the government’s amendments during a meeting of the labour committee and during debate in the National Assembly.

Zille blamed the drama on a failure of leadership, management and structure, especially as the parliamentary leadership had said in May that the party must take a strong stand against the proposed amendments.

While Zille first reacted publicly on Thursday — describing it as a “plane crash” — she had already apparently “exploded” on the afternoon of the vote.

Mazibuko’s rebuke of Zille in the caucus meeting came after the national leader referred to the minutes of the committee meeting and noted that the two DA MPs not only supported the amendments, but even strengthened some of the sanctions contained in the bill.

It was her insistence, repeated more than once, that Watson should step aside, that caused Mazibuko to intervene.

“Lindiwe said it was her ship and she would decide what happened. If anyone had to be held responsible, it should be her, not Watty and Wilmot [James, the federal chairperson],” Mazibuko reportedly said.

She accepted responsibility for the debacle, but said she would hand out penalties where necessary.

A veteran MP said she had “never seen Zille so furious”.

It was suggested in caucus that supporters of Athol Trollip, the previous parliamentary leader, want to see Mazibuko fail and be humiliated.

Trollip supporters hit back, asking why they would want to weaken the party.

“The status quo can’t continue and Zille has now realised it,” a DA leader said yesterday.

Zille has strongly denied that there are two centres of power in the party. She told Jan-Jan Joubert that she has “full confidence” in Mazibuko and the party operates with consensus decision making, so there cannot be two centres of power.

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