Johannesburg - Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane on Sunday brushed off comments about internal racial politics in the party made by its former parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko.
"She is speaking in her own capacity," said Maimane.
He said while there were "lots of views" about the direction the party needed to take, he was "leading the DA and I'm taking the party in a particular direction".
Last week, Mazibuko wrote in an opinion piece for BDLive commenting that while Maimane's "intervention" was an "outstanding initiative", it needed to be "carried throughout the entire organisation... "
"The DA should also reflect on hurtful and inaccurate internal party narratives that presume 'white competence', while labelling black leaders products of the generosity of their white counterparts," Mazibuko wrote.
Mazibuko’s remarks followed a rocky few months for the party, much of it due to various racism scandals.
In the wake of these incidents, Maimane this week launched a 'Stand Up, Speak Out' campaign that would allow South Africans to talk about race.
An anti-racism pledge – to be signed by all party officials – was also initiated.
In a speech delivered at the Apartheid Museum last Tuesday, Maimane emphasised that "racists are not welcome in the DA".
At the beginning of the year KwaZulu-Natal realtor Penny Sparrow – a one-time DA member – sparked a huge public furore following a Facebook post in which she described black beachgoers as "monkeys".
KwaZulu-Natal DA leader, Zwakele Mncwango, later announced that Sparrow no longer had any ties to the DA as her membership has been revoked.
Previously, DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard's membership was terminated at the end of October after she shared a Facebook post from journalist Paul Kirk, in which he praised former apartheid president PW Botha. Following disciplinary action, her expulsion was terminated – with various conditions.
Meanwhile, in her opinion piece, published online last Thursday, Mazibuko suggested that there was a culture within the party whereby "black members and leaders" were isolated, and branded the "black caucus" and… "illiberal racial nationalists" if they openly socialised with one another, and discouraged them from "forming bonds of friendship and familiarity."
She also said that "the liberal credentials of former National Party members are never questioned in this way…"
Dominance of white males in 'brains trust'
Mazibuko – who left her position in the party two years ago and is currently a resident fellow of the Harvard Institute of Politics in the US – furthermore suggested that "were it not for the efforts of black, fellow democrats working tirelessly in areas formerly hostile to the DA, the party would be nowhere near 23% [of the national vote it garnered in the 2014 elections] today".
In addition, Mazibuko suggested that an interrogation was needed into the "the almost exclusive dominance of white males within the party's 'brains trust' which was beginning to harm its external image as these highly disconnected men callously strut about social media like a law unto themselves".
Mazibuko criticised how certain DA advisors suggested that "SA’s 'obsession' with the politics of race distracts us from 'real issues' such as poverty and economic peril…. Any right-thinking progressive would not struggle to understand that the two are inextricably linked", she wrote.
As well as making the headlines of the Sunday Independent, Mazibuko’s comments also stirred up a Twitter storm.
While user Michael Holmes berated her, saying "You have left your country to this behaviour," others praised her view.
@khayadlanga suggested that "The DA should have made Lindiwe Mazibuko its leader", while a user identified as 'FamousLastWords' added, "Folks what else can I say about the DAs [sic] Lindiwe Mazibuko. She's gonna be big one day".
Asked on Sunday if the party would be willing to take her back, should she return from Harvard, Maimane said that "every person who joins the DA is voluntary…"
He said, "She chose to leave the party."