Zille's tweets blamed for DA's loss at the polls, says Trollip

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Athol Trollip hugs Mmusi Maimane after they resigned as DA leaders. (Simon Sonnekus, Netwerk24)
Athol Trollip hugs Mmusi Maimane after they resigned as DA leaders. (Simon Sonnekus, Netwerk24)

Newly elected federal council chairperson Helen Zille was equally to blame for the party's losses during the May general elections, former federal chairperson Athol Trollip believes. 

Speaking to News24, Trollip, who together with DA leader Mmusi Maimane resigned on the back of Zille's election, repeated his stance that the party's leadership should take collective responsibility for its poor performance during the elections. 

"Our election results were not only because of Maimane, what he did or didn't do. Our poor election results were also directly linked to Twitter commentary from Zille and the whole Patricia de Lille issue which were dealt with by the leadership of the party, not just by Maimane," he said. 

READ: The DA's dilemma: No crisis of colour, it's about leadership, says Zille as battle for top job hots up

The relationship between Zille and Maimane became tense after she tweeted controversial statements on colonialism. Pressured by Maimane, Zille apologised for her comments, promising to retire from public office after her tenure as Western Cape premier had ended.

In a turn of events, Zille surprised her detractors when she availed herself for the position of council chairperson in what many deemed was a two-horse race against Trollip, a close ally of Maimane. 

The DA shed 1.5% of its voter base in the May elections under Maimane. 

Maimane, who was blamed for its losses, then appointed a review panel on its performance led by former leaders Tony Leon, Ryan Coetzee and Capitec founder Michiel le Roux.

Lacklustre leadership 

The panel recommended Maimane resign, citing that he had displayed lacklustre leadership. 

The federal council, the party's highest decision-making body between conferences, elected to hold an early conference, a suggestion that was sold by Maimane himself.  

Shortly after that outgoing City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba together with Maimane and Trollip resigned from their positions in what has been termed a blue week for the DA. Maimane also resigned from the party. The DA has been scrambling ever since to manage the reputational damage. 

Trollip said he would stay on as a council member in Nelson Mandela Bay until the party had finalised a replacement.  

He added he was weighing up his options on how he would continue to make the best contribution. 

Trollip, whose legacy is intertwined with the win and subsequent loss of the metro, said his last mission as a DA member was the removal of Mayor Mongameli Bobani who was successful in removing him with the help of the ANC and EFF in 2018. 

"There is the matter of a motion of no confidence pending against Bobani. We can't go into a council meeting with a numbers deficit, because numbers count critically in that regard."

Rise to power 

Speaking on his legacy, Trollip said he wanted to be remembered for his achievements in the province. Eastern Cape provincial chairperson Nqaba Bhanga's rise to power has been attributed to Trollip. 

"If you look at what the DA looks like and what it has achieved in the Eastern Cape, I think its best represents my contribution to the party. We are probably the most diversely represented province.

"We have got some really competent leadership in our province and much of that can be attributed to the importance that I've placed in developing young leadership.

"We also achieved incredible milestones in winning SRC elections, most notably twice at Fort Hare University. I think that speaks of the fact that we have built a party for all South Africans in the Eastern Cape. If that could be mirrored across all provinces that would be my legacy," he said.

The DA has repeatedly tried to institute a motion of no confidence again Bobani but failed.

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