In a development that could add fuel to conflict raging in the DA, Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba has made explosive claims that former party leader Tony Leon unsuccessfully tried to solicit business from the city.
Leon, along with former party chief strategist Ryan Coetzee and Capitec founder Michiel le Roux, is one of the authors of the review panel report which was commissioned by DA leader Mmusi Maimane after the party’s disappointing performance in the May general elections.
Among other things the report calls for a “leadership refresh” which could see Maimane removed as party head as early as next weekend. Also in the firing line is party CEO Paul Boughey.
In addition, the report calls for the DA to discuss its relationship Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF, a move that would end the party’s control of Johannesburg and Tshwane.
The DA Federal Council – the highest structure in between congresses – will meet this week to deliberate on the contentious report and conduct the hotly contested election of a successor to federal chairperson James Selfe.
A meeting of the Federal Executive (Fedex) was held this past weekend at which most leaders were given a preview of the report.
A caucus of provincial leaders are alleged to have met on the sidelines of this weekend’s Fedex, where they are said to have been informed of Mashaba’s unhappiness over Leon’s role on the panel.
City Press learnt that Mashaba accused Leon of being conflicted in the work of the review panel after he unsuccessfully solicited business from the mayor.
Leon said on Saturday that he rejected Mr Mashaba’s “false assertions with the contempt they deserve”.
According to insiders, Mashaba is alleged to have written to party leadership informing them that Leon sought business worth about R300 million in the city of Johannesburg for a client of his company, Resolve Communications.
According to Mashaba’s version of events, the meeting took place at his residence earlier this year.
He told the former leader that he had no say in who got business from the city.
However, his office informed him a few months later of correspondence it had received from Resolve Communications CEO – and former DA member of parliament - Gavin Davis requesting further engagements with the city, suggesting that Leon has been successful in his request.
According to its website, Resolve Communications does “lobbying and advocacy, reputation management and strategic communications”.
It also states: “We connect our clients with relevant decision-makers and stakeholders who can affect their organisations.”
Mashaba has also told party leaders that he felt Leon was uninterested in his inputs when he came for the consultation with him ahead of the penning of the report.
He has attributed this lack of interest to his refusal to dish out business to Leon.
He believes this also influenced recommendations about re-evaluating the DA’s relationship with the EFF.
When approached for a comment, Mashaba said he did not wish to talk about matters “raised within party structures”.
Leon has questioned why the mayor waited until the report was finalised before raising concerns with the party leadership.
He questioned Mashaba’s intentions saying that he did not raise the matter when the panel interviewed him in July, nor was the matter raised during an “eight-hour discussion on the report at federal executive”.
“It is curious that Mr Mashaba has waited until the finalisation of the report to raise any such concerns. One can only conclude that this is an attempt to denigrate myself and, by extension, to delegitimise the review panel’s report.
“I hardly need to point out that who the City of Johannesburg decides to contract with is entirely the business of the City following all lawful processes. It is not the business of myself or the company I chair. One of our roles is to manage relationships between our private sector clients and those in the public sector, and we do so in an entirely open and transparent fashion.”
THE BATTLE IS JOINED
Warring factions in the party will battle it out next weekend when the report is tabled before the federal council, with Maimane and Boughey having to defend themselves.
Members of FedEx told City Press that they found the recommendation about the EFF to be odd.
“They are essentially trying to argue that we must no longer work with the EFF because they are on the other side of the ideological spectrum. But it really sounds like a race thing more than anything else. Remember that the Freedom Front Plus and the ACDP [the African Christian Democratic Party] also have different values from ours, but we work with them, so why single out the EFF?”, one member said.
The party issued a statement on Friday warning against “the unauthorised dissemination of the draft report”, saying that it “compromises the integrity of the debate and decisions”.
Maimane has repeatedly called for an early congress and his wish is likely to be granted next weekend.
Several recommendations require constitutional amendments which, if adopted, will probably require a national congress.
Another issue that is likely to result in blood-letting is the use of race as a proxy redress policy, which the report says must be rejected by the party.
Maimane and his allies champion the use of race, arguing that it had been one of the main advocates of keeping race as a determinant for redress.
This past week has also seen furious last-minute horse trading ahead of the election of Selfe’s successor.
Vying for the powerful position are former deputy chief whip Mike Waters, deputy federal chairperson Thomas Walters, former party leader Helen Zille and federal executive chairperson Athol Trollip.
Several federal council members told City Press that it was likely that Waters would withdraw at the last minute given that he and Zille had the same “constituency”.
When asked last week if he had considered withdrawing, Waters said: “No, but it depends, things change.”
Waters’ withdrawal would leave Trollip, Zille and Walters to battle it out.
Supporters of Zille and Trollip are said to have been lobbying Walters to withdraw and endorse one of them as he could hold the deciding votes should it become neck and neck.
Trollip enjoys the support of Maimane for the job. While the party leader has repeatedly said that he would not resign, City Press has learnt from those close to him that he would resign immediately should Zille emerge victorious at federal council.
“Helen winning is a victory for the gatekeepers of liberalism, we would be returning to the old DA from which Mmusi has worked hard to move away. If she wins there is no chance that he will stay; they will not be able to work together, it would be an impossible ask.”
Zille’s supporters meanwhile have threatened to go it alone should the vote not go their way.
An MP in the Zille camp said discussions to form a liberal party had been ongoing and would be activated should the need arise.
It’s expected that the federal council would agree on holding early congresses for all provinces and a national one in the middle of next year following a membership audit.
ATHOL’S ACE UP THE SLEEVE
Trollip stands a good chance of becoming mayor after a motion of no confidence in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro mayor Mongameli Bobani tomorrow.
Trollip’s backers were confident he might regain the position because the ANC coalition would not have the numbers to match those of the DA.
This would make Trollip “more attractive” going to the FedCo.
“There was no reason for anyone to support him if he was just a mere leader of opposition in a small city. It is a different thing when you are mayor of the metro.”
– Additional reporting by Setumo Stone
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