Helen Zille again in the eye of the storm

2018-07-22 06:01
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille is seen before her State of the Province Address at the Western Cape Provincial Parliament. (Jaco Marais, Gallo Images, Netwerk24, file)

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille is seen before her State of the Province Address at the Western Cape Provincial Parliament. (Jaco Marais, Gallo Images, Netwerk24, file)

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Helen Zille is again the subject of a storm brewing in the DA, this time over her inclusion in the selection panel tasked with choosing who will represent the party in Parliament.

Her participation in the Western Cape selection panel got the nod from the party’s federal executive, the same body that meted sanctions against her over tweets on the legacy of colonialism and barred her from participating in party activities.

The powerful panel recommends to the federal executive who goes to the provincial legislatures and to Parliament.

This has raised eyebrows within the DA, with some members citing how such a move could stifle Mmusi Maimane’s plans to transform the predominantly white benches in Parliament, as Zille and her colleagues wield the power to pick and choose who makes the cut.

“It is not permissible because of the suspension imposed on her, including participating in any party activities,” said a senior party leader. Another DA member questioned the decision to allow the deviation from the agreement, saying that the move could also be used to settle political scores.

“How can someone who is not allowed political activities do this? Not only does it contravene the agreement to not participate in party activities, but it also makes sure that people she agrees with regarding Mmusi taking the party in the wrong direction will be top of the pecking order. It also puts those who agree with Mmusi’s agenda to blacken the benches on the back foot.”

The party went to bat for Zille this week, defending the move and saying that the former leader’s inclusion would bring diversity to the process.

“Ms Zille is indeed a member of the selection panel for the Western Cape. She is part of a panel with party leaders and formidable independent professionals. There is nothing untoward about her being a member of the selection panel,” party spokesperson Solly Malatsi told City Press this week.

“Her experience as a two-term premier of the Western Cape, together with the expertise of the other panel members, will be useful to ensure that the process produces a diverse list of competent candidates to deliver well in government and help grow the party.”

Malatsi outlined the process, saying it had been given the green light by the federal executive.

“The provincial executive committee of the party nominates individuals for selection panels. The federal executive then approves the panels once it has satisfied itself that the proposed names reflect the appropriate balance between leadership experience in the party, governance and external professional representation to be fair.”

Pressed on whether or not Zille’s participation in the panel contravened the agreement, Malatsi said the federal executive would not have signed off on it if the agreement did contravene the agreement.

Zille has since apologised for her tweets, but the party still charged her for bringing the party into disrepute and forced her to vacate all positions, except that of Western Cape premier.

At the time that Zille and the federal executive made the decision for her to step aside she said: “I think it is appropriate that I stand down from the other party bodies, and perhaps I should’ve done it a long time ago, but not from the caucus,” she said.

Maimane at the time said he was personally aggrieved by Zille’s colonialism tweets.

“I was personally angered by the tweets that were put forward by Helen Zille and I know many others were as well. This is why I took immediate action to let people know that these were not the views held by the DA,” he said.

“There’s no room in this party for those who seek to divide or those who seek to mobilise on race.”

Zille is currently embroiled in a legal battle with Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who recommended that she be acted upon by the speaker of the Western Cape legislature, Sharna Fernandez.

This happened in the same week that former parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko reportedly told a gathering in Johannesburg that she had been undermined by Zille. She was quoted as saying: “She did it to me and she is doing it again,” reportedly referring to Zille undermining Maimane.

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Read more on:    parliament  |  da  |  helen zille  |  politics

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