Tired of being ‘hung out to dry’, DA’s head of policy quits, lambasts Maimane

Gwen Ngwenya has resigned her position as DA head of policy. Picture: Edrea du Toit/Foto24
Gwen Ngwenya has resigned her position as DA head of policy. Picture: Edrea du Toit/Foto24

Gwen Ngwenya has resigned from her position as the DA’s head of policy, saying that the party has “hung her out to dry”, making her the scapegoat when things got heated over the black economic empowerment debate.

Ngwenya, who left a position at the Institute of Race Relations in February last year to take up the job at the DA, announced her resignation in a four-page letter to party leader Mmusi Maimane.

“When I was approached to head up policy for the DA I was assured that the policy unit would have the support of the leadership, be semi-independent and would be there to provide unfettered advice based on research to the party. In addition, I would receive resources to fulfil the job, as well as the ability to recruit my own staff,” the letter reads.

“None of these terms were partially, let alone wholly, fulfilled. Instead I was often hung out to dry in the face of unhappiness with policy within the party, there were untouchable policy areas, no budget was designated to the policy unit, and no additional staff could be hired. If these had been the terms presented to me from the onset there is every likelihood I would not have accepted the offer.”

Ngwenya was caught in the eye of the storm over the party’s position on BEE last year. She had been tasked with reviewing the policy but her findings were not considered by the federal council. Insiders say that she was incensed that she was made to run around the country only for her work to be ignored.

“In August 2018 I published an article indicating that BEE had not lived up to expectations and that the DA was exploring a policy alternative. None of that was not true. At the federal council in July I had been given a mandate to explore a non-racial alternative. Furthermore, I quoted your own words from a Bokamoso saying, “we need a wholesale change in empowerment policies, to move away from race-based policies that enable elite enrichment, towards policies that fundamentally break down the system of deprivation that still traps millions of South Africans in poverty”, Ngwenya writes in addressing the fall out.

“The result of communicating what was a party mandate and the words of the federal leader was a public repudiation of my position by the federal chairperson. I believe he acted on the wisdom of our communications operation. Instead of having the courage of its convictions, at the mere whiff of a debate on BEE the party felt it best to attack the head of policy than to own up to its own structure’s decision. That was probably the moment at which I should have tendered my resignation; when I was hung out to dry without so much as a phone call for reiterating what the leader had months ago already said, albeit within the relative safety of a DA newsletter.”

Ngwenya is aligned with the more conservative side of the DA ,which Maimane has been facing off with in recent months. She was also touted as a potential successor to Maimane.

DA national spokesperson Solly Malatsi has said that Ngwenya will now be taking up a role as part of the energy portfolio.

“We thank Ms Ngwenya for the role she has played, she will now dedicate herself full-time to her energy portfolio and bring considerable expertise to bear to her parliamentary work. Policy in the DA is developed through a variety of structures and highly skilled individuals, and this work will continue that will culminate in the launch of our election manifesto on February 23. This manifesto will give life to our vision of delivering change that will build ‘one South Africa for all’,” Malatsi said.

Read the scathing letter of resignation here.  

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