Split: DA calls for unity

2018-05-28 16:00
 “DA members in the province should not allow what is being said about the party in the media to distract them from preparations for next year’s elections ... we are confident that the DA will continue the trend of growing its support in the province,” - DA provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango.

“DA members in the province should not allow what is being said about the party in the media to distract them from preparations for next year’s elections ... we are confident that the DA will continue the trend of growing its support in the province,” - DA provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango. (News24)

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As reports of a possible split within the DA send shockwaves throughout the party, the official opposition’s KZN leadership has called on members to unite behind its campaign for the 2019 elections.

“DA members in the province should not allow what is being said about the party in the media to distract them from preparations for next year’s elections ... we are confident that the DA will continue the trend of growing its support in the province,” DA provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango said.

Mncwango was reacting to a report in Sunday’s City Press claiming that senior DA leaders, who are concerned about the fact that the party under the leadership of Mmusi Maimane was losing its “liberal identity”, were planning to form a splinter organisation.

“While no one has officially approached us in the province about the so-called new party, we are, however, worried that there might be individuals within the organisation who have used the recent debate around race to create unnecessary panic and anxiety within the party,” he said.

Maimane, alongside Mncwango and other black leaders within the DA, is of the view that the party stood to benefit from debating issues around race and policies meant to redress the inequalities created by apartheid.

However, some senior DA leaders, fearing that dwelling too much on the past would alienate white voters, are said to be threatening to leave the party and form a splinter organisation.

According to DA insiders, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille is being touted as one of the possible leaders of the new party.

News of a possible split within the DA is viewed as a continuation of reports of internal battles pitting the Maimane camp and a faction said to include DA chief whip John Steenhuisen and the party’s federal chairperson, James Selfe, on the other.

The cracks within the DA, surfacing at a time when political analysts were becoming more convinced that the party, working with other smaller opposition parties, could succeed in dislodging the ANC from power as early as next year, have raised fears around the future of opposition politics in the country.

The DA’s former strategist, Ryan Coetzee, credited for the party’s phenomenal growth in recent years, was amongst those who took to Twitter to express their fears.

“Mmusi must provide clarity and leadership; James [Selfe, DA federal chairperson] and John [Steenhuisen, DA chief whip] must sit down and sort things out between them; the provincial leadership must provide some leadership and bring their people along with them and these ‘senior MPs’ need to stop being silly,” he said.

Coetzee, who also served as special adviser to Nick Clegg when he was deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom, called on the two factions to find common ground, saying a DA split would weaken the country’s opposition.

“The DA needs to get a grip. (a) Liberalism and redress are not mutually exclusive. (b) A herstigte PP [Progressive Party] would split the centre ground alternative to the ANC and guarantee it a few more decades in power,” said Coetzee.

DA national spokesperson Refiloe Ntsekhe said while the party was not aware of any of its senior members who were about to leave, the organisation would always respect its members’ right to choose the party they wanted to belong to.

“Freedom of association is at the core of liberalism and should people want to leave, we will have to respect their decision,” she said.

The DA, which over the years has been making inroads into black townships and rural areas — previously dominated by ANC supporters — is currently controlling four of the country’s eight metros: Tshwane, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Nelson Mandela.

Ntsekhe said DA members were optimistic about next year’s elections.

“There are these reports whose origins we don’t know but the fact of the matter is that DA members on the ground are looking forward to the elections, they are excited and invigorated,” she said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  da

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