Maimane is mishandling Zille’s saga

2017-06-03 16:06

After spending a lot of time dancing around the issue, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has suspended Helen Zille over her tweets on the legacy of colonialism. The party had previously suggested that Zille was too busy to be suspended. Change in their position is welcomed.  But Maimane is mishandling this saga.

If allegations by Zille that the DA has flouted its own constitution, the entire disciplinary process can be easily set aside in a court of law should outcome thereof not be favourable to Ms Zille.

Madam Zille claims that party leader,  Mmusi Maimane,  undermined the party's constitution when announcing that Zille had  been suspended. She says the DA is required to   give her a chance to explain to the party why she shouldn't be suspended. But Maimane quickly called a press conference to announce her suspension before Zille  had made presentations on why she shouldn't be suspended. Procedural fairness is a key requirement when dealing with disciplinary matters. This error could nullify outcome of the disciplinary process. Now party Chairperson has confirmed that Zille hasn't been suspended as publicly stated by party leader.  Instead,  Zille has been served with notice of intention to suspend her which requires her to make presentations on why she shouldn't be suspended.

But that's not even the only issue here. The other issue is  the  reason provided for her suspension and terms thereof. Maimane said Zille has damaged what the party is trying so hard to build,  a reputation of a party that stands for non-racialism and reconciliation.  Also that he and Zille hold very different views on the direction the party needs to take going forward.

Then he proceeded to announce that Zille is suspended from all party activities. This is a lie. Zille hasn't been suspended from all party activities.  The DA stated that Helen Zille would remain Premier of the Western Cape. Political party representation in a legislature or government is a party activity. Zille represents the DA in government as Premier of the Western Cape.  Thus she partakes in party activities through the position she holds as the party's public representative.

Zille disqualified herself from holding that position the minute she,   as Maimane suggested,  caused serious harm to the kind of a political party he wants to lead. Taking that into consideration,  and the fact that Zille and Maimane disagree fundamentally on the direction the political party needs to take going forward, how is she still fit and proper to lead the political party in government?

How can you keep a person in such a senior government position after they have,  in your view as leader of the party,  caused serous harm to the party's reputation? A directive to the to the DA's Members of the Western Cape legislature should've been issued by the party's highest decision making body between conferences, to recall Zille as Premier of the Western Cape. The party has previously issued directives on how public representatives in a legislature should vote.  This is a useful tool in such circumstances.  But the DA chose not to. Because they adore Zille and find nothing wrong with her tweets but the  outraged caused by them forces the party to do something.

Then Maimane stated that he doesn't believe Zille is racist. So the charge against her is not motivated by racism in her tweets  but by possible  damage to the party's  reputation. I have  previously proposed  that Zille should be dismissed for her racism.  But because the party doesn't see racism from its white public representatives, they should  dismiss her for damaging the party's reputation.

Maimane confirmed that they don't see racism. Now if Maimane as leader of the DA has established that Zille has damaged the party reputation and can't agree on direction the party needs to take going forward,  a simple recall doesn't require a  disciplinary hearing.  The party enjoys discretionary power to,  subject to electoral legislation,  appoint and remove people from their lists submitted to the IEC as public representatives in legislatures across South Africa. Swift action to remove Zille as Premier of the Western Cape doesn't actually require a disciplinary hearing.  But Maimane has shown that he doesn't have the guts to take leadership on this. This would've been better than having to sanction Zille for expressing an opinion which goes against the party's messy brand of liberalism.

Maybe Maimane  is afraid that  he might get an offer of admission to study at an overseas institution like former DA parliamentary leader. When Mazibuko and Zille disagreed on policy,  Zille stamped her authority as federal leader of the DA and had the party go in the direction Zille wanted. Maimane's pathetic handling of Zille’s saga  is missing a golden opportunity to do the same.  Unsurprising when you consider that Maimane is surrounded by Zille loyalists. Last time I checked,  the woman who helped Zille choose her outfits also works in the DA leader's office. Not only party representatives loyal to Zille but party administrative staff. Maimane needs to break free from such, and to do that,  he must remove Zille as Premier of the Western Cape. And uproot everyone of her allies. But then Maimane himself is Zille’s golden boy so...

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