DA Free State leader Patricia Kopane steps down, but says it's not due to a 'black purge'

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Patricia Kopane, with the DA's Werner Horn.
Patricia Kopane, with the DA's Werner Horn.
Charles Smith
  • Patricia Kopane dismissed any allegations of a "black purge" influencing her decision to step down as the DA Free State leader.  
  • Kopane announced she would not be standing for another term.
  • This, as DA leader Refiloe Nt’sekhe blamed the media for displaying a "racist underbelly" in its portrayal of black DA leaders.

"I was not influenced by the so-called purge of black leaders by the DA in my decision," said outgoing DA Free State leader Patricia Kopane, who announced she would not be standing for another term. 

Speaking to News24 on Monday, Kopane - at the helm of the party in the Free State for eight years - said her decision was a long time coming, adding that she had discussed her departure two years back with then DA leader Mmusi Maimane. 

"When people leave, we leave for different reasons, but it does not mean that when somebody leaves the organisation, all of us need to leave. I voluntarily joined [the] DA alone. When I am stepping down, people think it's something else, no way.

READ: 'I cannot even sleep in a DA T-shirt' – John Moodey on resigning from DA

"The decision of stepping down is not something I decided now, even during Maimane's time, I did have a conversation that, in the next term, I am not going to stand again," she said. 

Kopane was the second provincial leader to call it a day, following months of public spats and factional battles by national leaders. KwaZulu-Natal provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango also announced he would be stepping down from his position to focus on his PhD. 

The decision by the party leaders, more so that of Mncwango's, fuelled speculation of an orchestrated purge of black leaders. 

READ | Steenhuisen to DA delegates: Internal fighting will hurt us at the polls next year

Former Gauteng provincial leader John Moodey said as much during his resignation from the party in September, adding that people should expect an exit of more black party leaders. 

Moodey, who was running for the party leader position against John Steenhuisen and Mbali Ntuli, said the party was ridding itself of all dissenting voices who believed all South African lives mattered.

This assertion had been denied on countless occasions by the party. 

Racist underbelly 

Recently, deputy federal chairperson and national spokesperson Refiloe Nt’sekhe blamed the media for displaying a "racist underbelly in its portrayal of black DA leaders".

She said it was sheer political illiteracy that had so many journalists lazily pitting blacks against whites in a vacuum of logic and reason, egged on by the DA's detractors who used the trope of racial victimhood. 

READ | Moodey slams DA after exit

"It is one thing to state that a black member had left the DA based on irreconcilable ideological difference, but it is racist to those of us who choose to stay and serve South Africa, to state that black leaders are being purged from the party.

"This is precisely why the DA has adopted the non-racialism clause, because there is no such thing as black or white thought. There are only ideas, and among them, good and bad ones.

"It is this very ideal that South Africa needs to embrace if we are ever going to move forward. We need to judge individuals on the merits of their ideas and actions, and not on how well they adhere to the ideas expected of them based purely on the colour of their skin," the DA deputy federal chair wrote. 

Career

Kopane, with a career spanning close to 20 years in the party, said whomever takes over from her as provincial leader, would be measured according to her achievements - listing among many, the takeover of a DA-led coalition at Metsimaholo municipality before its dissolution in 2017; gaining five seats in the legislature in the 2019 elections; and leading the party in two national elections. 

"The other thing is that I've done what I wanted to do. The DA has grown in the Free State, we are on the map. There is also [a] time that you must give other people an opportunity. I don't want to be like (Robert) Mugabe in office or wait until you are pushed.

"When you are a leader, you know exactly when to come and do your job and you know when to stop. I've built my political career, my legacy, I think now let me give other people an opportunity, who will be better than me. There is always someone better than you. Sometimes if you are not selfish and you want the organisation to grow, give other people an opportunity."

She added that she was not leaving the party and would remain a chief whip in the legislature.

The party was expected to hold its elective congress in October to choose Maimane's successor. While some leaders had already made known their preferred candidate, Kopane said she was weighing up her options. 

"Currently I am still waiting for other candidates to make themselves available then I think I'll make the decision after that, because nominations haven't been closed." 

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