The Democratic Alliance chose Zille and left Maimane weak

2017-06-14 10:47

Politicians, like sportspeople, are as good as their previous performance. When their fitness and form declines they cannot be expected to continue being part of the playing squad. For this reason, they should always earn the privilege to serve their political parties and the people of South Africa at large. The recent debacle in the Democratic Alliance was turned into a need to protect Helen Zille because of the historic role she has played in South African politics and not into a forward looking exercise that asks, “Is Helen Zille still fit for purpose of being in the starting line-up for the DA?”

When your action as a politician erupts a storm, you have one opportunity to get things right – immediately introspecting when the storm surfaces. You do not try and be superhuman by fighting the storm and then when you are at the brink of losing the fight you come out and do the right thing. This is one thing that many public servants are yet to internalize and abide by accordingly. Politics is a game of perceptions. Before fighting public outrage on your action you need to sit down and weigh your options and potentially tell the possible outcomes of fighting such public outrage. This often requires a level of foresight; pity, many politicians lack this because for them politics are self-serving and not about a broader public good. Helen Zille even admitted this when she said “my first instinct is usually to fight back” Basically her ability to comprehend complex moments due to her own action(s) is quite impaired. A politician’s first instinct should be reflection and introspection.

Mmusi Maimane understood this when he relentlessly pursued action against Helen Zille after he had laid a complaint. Zille had been defiant throughout the entire process, digging in her heels as she wanted to prove how correct her utterances were. She was not waiting for “good rational sound argument” to drop her own line of thought, as she claims. If she was waiting for such good rational sound argument, she was unwilling to hear it from Maimane who engaged her very earlier on into the saga asking her to apologise unreservedly. By her own admission, Zille states that “during this period I have made public utterances that have had the effect of undermining the Leader of the Democratic Alliance and the project he is leading. I greatly regret this.” This is definitely a stage managed admission to wrongdoing that should have seen her facing the music of a disciplinary hearing.

When Mmusi Maimane announced the suspension of Helen Zille from party activities, he said, “It has become fundamentally clear that Premier Zille and I hold different and fundamentally different attitudes about the direction the Democratic Alliance needs to accomplish in 2019 and the goals and priorities...” Maimane further went on to say that Zille’s views undermine the reconciliation project the Democratic Alliance stood for. In the sum total, Helen Zille had committed multiple offenses that needed to be tested through a disciplinary process not a political management scheme. The latter is dangerous because it creates members and members extraordinaire that are above party processes. The Democratic Alliance needed to show that all its members are not above the party and can be reined in at any moment of misconduct. The main aim for this is to create one scale of justice in handling internal matters, allow fair and just treatment of all members, and uphold the integrity of the party by demonstrating that there are consequences to intransigent behaviour that harms the organisation.

Why then the need for a political management scheme on the Helen Zille matter? We must look no further than Mmusi Maimane’s words when they were announcing the compromise to the nation. He said since his election as leader of the party they had set their “sights at unseating the ANC from the government in order to save our country”. It seems this they will pursue at all costs, including compromising their internal processes. Given that the Disciplinary Process had already been set in motion by the time the political compromise was reached, how did Maimane go about withdrawing the charge(s) against Zille? No transparency has been rendered to this process. Who was involved in determining what was in the best interests of the party? Did the lobbying happen in clandestine meetings or in a meeting of a constitutional structure of the Democratic Alliance? What do we learn on interference with the Disciplinary Committee and its politicization given that it seems a deal became necessary after the first seating of the DC? These are all questions to which answers have not been forthcoming.

The project to unseat the ANC should not equate to the erosion of internal processes within the Democratic Alliance. Let us imagine that Zille had an important contention to raise on how procedure was flouted in handling her suspension from party activities. This could have been corrected by restarting the process to charge her. We already know from numerous cases on DCs that unfair procedure in charging someone does not erase the merits of a case, so a DC process simply gets reactivated following the correct processes. Therefore, if Maimane committed a blunder by announcing Zille’s suspension before she was afforded 72 hours to make her representations as to why she should not be suspended from party activities then the party needed to acknowledge this and restart the process. Zille needed to answer for the number of offenses, already outlined above, in a Disciplinary Committee. The political management scheme that has been hatched to save her embarrassment is a severe blow in holding her accountable. This internally within the DA leads to differentiated scales of justice for different people – a grossly unfair and completely undemocratic practice.

In the sum total the political compromised reached was somewhat politically illiterate as it left Mmusi Maimane as the leader of the DA completely exposed and vulnerable. He appears as having cowered and given in to the ‘real people that run the DA’. No leader ever wants to be part of a political scheme that leaves them exposed, yet Maimane accepted such a compromise. Everybody knows that political parties are not perfect and if Zille had dragged the party to courts, the public would have seen here for what she is – a self-serving politician that wants the DA to die with her now gone political career. The political compromise is in itself problematic as it will suddenly be difficult to hold Zille accountable within party structures as she has been effectively banned from these. She will still be allowed to attend legislature caucus meetings – yet this is a political structure of the organisation that extends its deliberations even to party leaders that are not members of the legislature.

What we learn from this ill-fated political management scheme is that the Democratic Alliance has come to one conclusion – Helen Zille has become toxic for the DA. The logical conclusion is that she should no longer be fit to represent the organisation. In exchange of political power Zille has traded in her freedom of expression as she will now be closely monitored in terms of what she is allowed to communicate in social media. Therefore, we will get a pretend leader in Zille and not her genuine erratic and callously racist self who has no filter (due to lacking consciousness) on race relations. Some of us have watched Helen Zille being indifferent with black people’s anger and continuing to spew her racially disoriented remarks. These tweets on colonialism were a culmination of a behaviour that the DA had allowed to thrive within Zille. Helen Zille is no longer fit to be an ambassador of the Democratic Alliance brand.

Some ask; quo vadis DA? The Democratic Alliance will continue to grow on the backdrop of people’s disaffection with the African National Congress, but this will be support in transition. The DA has once more shown it is unable to break ranks with politics of old tradition. This rootedness within a white conservative cabal within the party is going to compromise the political fortunes of the DA. If a new political party that resonates mainly with the black middle class is launched before 2019, the DA is at risk of losing even some of its highly placed public representatives because very soon they will declare “we can no longer breathe”. The party has done little to demonstrate that Helen Zille is not bigger than the party but furthermore and more critically, this outcome has weakened Mmusi Maimane’s leadership in the eyes of those that matter the most – black people who are desperately looking for an alternative government in South Africa but are neither DA members nor supporters.

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