Harvard was Mazibuko’s Plan B: Zille

By Drum Digital
14 May 2014

Mazibuko would have lost her position: Zille

There was a strong possibility that Lindiwe Mazibuko would have lost the election as the DA's parliamentary leader, the party’s leader Helen Zille believes.

In an interview with Die Burger, Zille also confirmed that she had offered Mazibuko the Gauteng premier candidacy, but that Mazibuko had turned it down.

Zille on Tuesday pulled no punches in an interview 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 her position. 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 in Business Day 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 to Die Burger on Tuesday 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. She 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.

Meanwhile, Zille told SAfm on Wednesday morning that she had decided to stay on as premier of the Western Cape instead of going to Parliament, Sapa reported.

"We decided I should finish the job I do as premier," said Zille.

The DA won almost 60% of the provincial vote in the Western Cape in the general elections last week and significantly grew its support base in Gauteng.

DA communications director Gavin Davis admitted in a letter in Business Day on Wednesday that there were tensions within the DA and that the relationship between Zille and Mazibuko had become strained, "but not irretrievably so".

Davis also raised the question of whether the real choice faced by Mazibuko was between losing the parliamentary leadership and returning to university.

Mazibuko declined a request from Die Burger for comment.

-Sources:  News24, SAPA and Die Burger.

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