Ramaphosa high divides DA

2018-02-25 06:19


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Sparks flew at a DA caucus meeting on Thursday as the party’s MPs and senior managers clashed over a political strategy on how to ­respond to what they call “Ramaphoria”, a ­reference to the elation that’s engulfed the country since the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC president in December.

Things got so heated that the DA’s chief executive, Paul Boughey, was shown the door after remarking that things were under control and that the DA was doing well under the circumstances.

Boughey’s remarks preceded a presentation of a communications strategy by another senior official, Sivilwe Gwarube, about the DA caucus in Parliament.

But the party’s chief whip, John Steenhuisen, jumped in and voiced his unhappiness about lack of political strategy in general and charged that Boughey’s “presentation” lacked strategic direction on how to deal with Ramaphosa.

Steenhuisen had claimed the party hadn’t done well and its strategy was poor.

This led to the discussion degenerating and a war of words, party sources said.

Steenhuisen declined to comment to City Press, saying he is not allowed to speak about caucus meetings.

Boughey said the discussion had been wilfully distorted and misrepresented by some in the caucus.

City Press understands that differences over Ramaphosa first came to the fore when Steenhuisen resigned from the party’s national campaign team in January after clashing with Boughey and the party’s campaign manager Jonathan Moakes over the DA’s initial reaction to Ramaphosa’s election in December.

Shortly after the announcement of Ramaphosa’s election, the party issued a press statement headlined: “The ANC is dead.”

It said Ramaphosa’s election as ANC president would change nothing as “he has been part of this corrupt government for the past five years, protecting Zuma at every step”.

“His election simply means the corrupt system oppressing us will continue.”

Steenhuisen allegedly argued that the ­party should have welcomed Ramaphosa’s election as leader of the ANC and it should have been gracious about it, instead of ­hammering him.

The softer approach was the strategy employed by party leader Mmusi Maimane in the past week’s state of the nation (Sona) debate, where he spoke about how good it had felt to applaud Ramaphosa’s maiden Sona.

Depending on who you speak to, during Thursday’s caucus meeting, Boughey had allegedly told MPs there was no need to panic about what he called Ramaphoria as it would soon die down. He allegedly said Ramaphosa was no threat to the party as he was leading the same team as his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.

But Steenhuisen’s backers claim it was Steenhuisen who believed the party should go soft on Ramaphosa and read the national mood. They claimed Boughey’s presentation was out of touch politically and relied too much on data instead of reading the political mood.

An MP – who spoke on the condition of anonymity – said they had found the way Boughey and Moakes were conducting the campaign and planning for 2019 to be poor, arrogant and out of touch with the mood in the country. The MP noted that Ramaphosa’s election had brought relief to many people.

“You can’t then come out swinging and trying to punch him, it would make us look silly.

“If we run a campaign like that, it won’t be good for our prospects in 2019,” said the MP.

Another source, pro-Boughey, claimed Steenhuisen had offered no alternative besides criticising Boughey’s strategy.

Boughey said it was unfortunate that a discussion on media management, and not party strategy, had been wilfully distorted and misrepresented by some in the caucus.

“This would seem to be part of the normal jockeying that takes place within a political party ahead of internal elections,” he said.

The DA is scheduled to hold its elective conference in April.

Boughey said the party’s strategy was agreed to and directed by the political leadership and had been discussed and fine-tuned for a number of months now.

“In point of fact the approach to Sona can best be summed up by Mmusi’s point that South Africa does not have a Jacob Zuma problem, but an ANC problem,” Boughey said.

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  john steenhuisen  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  mmusi maimane

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