Factions in DA gear up for Zille battle

2017-06-04 06:01
DA leader Mmusi Maimane. (Deon Raath, Netwerk24)

DA leader Mmusi Maimane. (Deon Raath, Netwerk24)

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Helen Zillle’s suspension from the DA has thwarted rumoured ambitions of her running for office in the party as it prepares for its provincial and national congresses.

Insiders have told City Press that there was a “strong indication” that the former leader wanted to run for the position of Western Cape leader at the provincial congress come the end of this year, or even nationally next year.

“Helen is adamant that she is right and, should we not follow procedure, she will take this matter to court. We have done the best that we can within legal frameworks,” an insider said.

“The suspension is a warning shot to her that we are still in control and Mmusi [Maimane, DA leader] is tired of being seen as not taking action when it [was] the processes and Helen herself holding him back from doing what he wants to do, which is to fire her.

"There is no difference between what she is doing to the DA and what [President Jacob] Zuma is doing to [the ANC] at this stage.”

Maimane announced yesterday that Zille had been suspended from all party activities, but that she would remain in her position as premier of the Western Cape.

However, Zille was quick to hit back on Twitter, saying that her suspension did not “comply with the requirements of section 3.6.3 of the DA’s own federal constitution, which requires that I be given time to make representations on the matter”.

She added that chairperson of the executive, James Selfe – who was absent from the announcement of her suspension – had informed her that she had until June 6 to make those representations before her suspension became operative.

In a response to a text message from City Press, Selfe confirmed that Zille’s version of events was accurate and that she had been served with a notice of suspension.

Serious damage to the party

Shortly after, the DA released a statement saying that Zille had in fact been given 72 hours to make representations, but members of the federal executive told City Press that the notice was a mere technicality as the meeting had already resolved to suspend her.

Maimane had said in his statement that he and Zille had different ideas as to how the DA needed to make its mark in 2019 and beyond.

“Ms Zille’s social media commentary and public utterances in connection with colonialism undermine our reconciliation project.

“There is no question that Ms Zille’s original tweets and subsequent justifications have damaged our standing in the public mind,” he said.

The opposition party leader also said that he had given Zille an opportunity to apologise unreservedly for her tweets and subsequent defence of them, but she had declined to do so.

It is understood that the move against Zille has deepened divisions in the party with factions gearing up for battle and rallying behind either Maimane or Zille.

Members of the party’s federal executive told City Press that removing Zille from government was not an option as the party’s constitution forbade them from doing so.

“We had a debate about whether she should be suspended as premier.

"In terms of the law, a sitting premier can only be removed either through a motion of no confidence or by a termination of contract by the political party.

“None of this can be done until her guilt has been established by the [disciplinary committee].

"We can’t instruct our members to table a motion of no confidence because we have not finalised the matter internally and we can’t terminate for the same reason,” a member of the executive said.

The same member said that Zille was on a rampage doing serious damage to the party.

“She can see she is damaging the party, she could have had a graceful exit, but she wants to fight. She wasn’t suspended initially because she hadn’t conducted herself in the way that she has since.

“Look at her Twitter timeline and all of the opinion pieces. She has stood her ground and is refusing any attempt at mediation. We were left with no option but to suspend.”

Last week City Press reported that the DA’s internal polling indicated that, since Zille’s tweets, the party had shown a downward trend in support.

“She started the 2019 project, but now, because she is not the one leading it – and maybe she thought she could control Mmusi and she now realises that she can’t – it is a problem.

“We are trying to look to 2019 to convince people that we are not a white party,” an insider said.

However, another provincial leader cautioned that the suspension would in fact give Zille ammunition when making her case.

“It is a mistake to suspend Helen.

“You may remember that when Selfe was asked why she had not been suspended, he said that you couldn’t suspend people if you [were certain] they wouldn’t interfere with witnesses.

“Now they are suspending her and she will have a great case for herself, because why is she being suspended if she has not interfered with anyone?”

Read more on:    da  |  mmusi maimane  |  james selfe

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