Some black DA members want Maimane to forge ahead with Zille suspension

2017-06-05 18:32
DA leader Mmusi Maimane. (Netwerk24)

DA leader Mmusi Maimane. (Netwerk24)

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Johannesburg - Some members of the Democratic Alliance are warning that leader Mmusi Maimane has to push ahead with his tough stance against former leader Helen Zille if the party is to retain credibility among black voters.

Zille is due to make submissions on why she should not be suspended for her colonialism tweets that have enraged black members in the party.

The bruising battle between Maimane and Zille has divided the party, with some leaders in the Federal Executive and provinces saying it could split the party and threaten its ambitious plans to dislodge the African National Congress in the 2019 general elections.

"Whatever happens Mmusi must emerge stronger or else the DA project to grow the party and challenge the ANC and win more provinces is gone," a prominent Gauteng leader said.

Several black leaders told News24 that inaction against Zille will cost the party black voters who are not convinced it is serious about transformation. The ANC would also use it against them.

"We have worked hard to convince voters that the DA is no longer a white party, and this battle with Zille is making people doubt that," a DA Member of Parliament said.

READ: Helen Zille's suspension means nothing

Refused to apologise

Other party leaders have described Zille's "defiant stance and publicly challenging Mmusi" as an attempt to lead the party from behind the scenes.

Zille took to Twitter to criticise Maimane on Saturday after he announced that a notice of suspension will be served against her for refusing to apologise for the tweets that praised aspects of colonialism.

She said the party had failed to follow the party's constitution by not giving her time to explain why she should not be suspended.

Within hours, party chairperson James Selfe did a U-turn and announced Zille had now been given 72 hours to plead her case against suspension.

The deadline is on Tuesday at 17:00.

A federal executive member admitted the way the party handled the saga was "embarrassing".

They said that the 72-hour time frame was mentioned in the meeting before Maimane called the press conference.

She was surprised that Maimane announced immediate suspension.

Strong support base

While the "constitutional glitch" had put Maimane on the back foot, the party members supporting him want him to push ahead with the suspension.

"Our party is already divided on this matter, Mmusi must just forge ahead. He must not shift from the position he's currently on," another member told News24.

The party wants to suspend her from all party structures pending her disciplinary process. She will remain Western Cape premier - a move the ANC in the province has criticised.

Zille appears to still have considerable support within the party, with the DA leaders News24 spoke to admitting that her strong support base, deep knowledge of the party and her expertise as a master strategist, will make it a tough battle for Maimane.

"Helen is the white female version of Jacob Zuma," a party leader said.

Acting DA Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela though, was critical of those who were speaking outside of the federal executive anonymously, labelling them "spineless".

"Whatever differences we might have, once a decision is made by majority, we must all abide by it," he said.

"That's what divides the party. It really is ill-disciplined and I really hate that. If the majority decides, you then become a part of the majority."

Disciplinary proceedings

Every member of the DA ultimately wants the same thing, including Zille; that the situation follows due process and does not drag on, he said.

His personal feelings on the matter were therefore "neither here nor there".

Madikizela admitted the Federal Executive agreed to serve a "notice of intention to suspend", and not an immediate suspension.

He stressed that the Federal Executive was relying on its constitution to suspend Zille from party duties, and not her membership, which would require greater processes.

"I need to make that very clear."

Zille on Monday maintained her party has not followed its own constitution during her disciplinary proceedings.

"Due process is essential to fairness, and the DA has not followed its own constitution," she told News24 via email.

"The right of audi alteram partem [to listen to the other side] is central to the concept of natural justice."

She was also adamant that the content of her tweets were backed up by academics, and did not warrant her stepping down from her position.

"I am not sure how I can be asked to step down for an analysis that is shared by almost every serious scholar of the legacy of colonialism."

When asked if the ongoing saga around her disciplinary process is hurting the party's chances of a legitimate campaign for the Union Buildings in 2019, she replied: "Our brand is good governance.

"If we govern well, wherever we are in government or coalition, that will speak louder than anything else we do, and that is what I am trying to do in the Western Cape."

Read more on:    da  |  mmusi maimane  |  helen zille  |  cape town  |  politics

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