The inclusion of Western Cape Premier Helen Zille on a DA selection panel to choose who will represent the party in Parliament has caused conflict within the party, City Press has reported.
Her selection for the panel was approved by the party’s federal executive, the same body that suspended her over her colonialism tweets and barred her from participating in party activities.
The panel will make recommendations to the federal executive as to who in the DA should go to the provincial legislature and to Parliament.
Zille’s inclusion has been unpopular with some within the DA, as they feel it might interfere with leader Mmusi Maimane’s plans to transform the DA’s presence in parliament, which is currently dominated by white faces.
According to a senior DA member, Zille’s participation “is not permissible because of the suspension imposed on her, including participating in any party activities”.
Another DA member felt the inclusion of Zille on the panel was a deviation from the federal executive barring her from party activities.
“How can someone who is not allowed political activities do this? Not only does it contravene the agreement to not participate in party activities, but it also makes sure that people she agrees with regarding Mmusi taking the party in the wrong direction will be top of the pecking order. It also puts those who agree with Mmusi’s agenda to blacken the benches on the backfoot,” the member said.
DA spokesperson Solly Malatsi defended the decision to include Zille to the panel.
“Ms Zille is indeed a member of the selection panel for the Western Cape. She is part of a panel with party leaders and formidable independent professionals. There is nothing untoward about her being a member of the selection panel,” Malatsi told City Press.
“Her experience as a two-term premier of the Western Cape, together with the expertise of the other panel members, will be useful to ensure that the process produces a diverse list of competent candidates to deliver well in government and help grow the party.”
Malatsi highlighted that the process had been approved by the federal executive, saying they would not have signed off on her inclusion if it contravened the agreement made regarding the suspension of her participation in party matters.
“The provincial executive committee of the party nominates individuals for selection panels. The federal executive then approves the panels once it has satisfied itself that the proposed names reflect the appropriate balance between leadership experience in the party, governance and external professional representation to be fair.”
Zille has had a tumultuous two weeks. It was reported that she was pelted with stones while trying to address angry protesters in Hermanus township, Zwelihle, on July 13. Last week, protesters built a shack right outside the doorstep at her residence in Gardens, Cape Town, to mark Mandela Day and highlight insufficient housing in Western Cape informal settlements.
She is also currently involved in a legal battle with public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who found in a report that Zille’s tweets about colonialism had violated the Constitution and the executive ethics code, had brought back a lot of pain and suffering to victims of apartheid, and “celebrated the oppression, exploitation, racism and poverty which were the direct result of the legacy of colonialism”.
Zille obtained an urgent interdict on July 17 suspending Mkhwebane’s directive that Western Cape legislature speaker Sharna Fernandez must “take appropriate action” to hold her accountable for the controversial tweets.
Mkhwebane found that the tweets divided society on racial grounds, were offensive and insensitive to a section of the South African population, and were likely to cause racial tensions, diversions and violence in South Africa.
In court papers, Zille vehemently denied that the tweets could be interpreted in the way Mkhwebane and Magaxa did, and said the tweets, read in context, expressed her view that in spite of the overall negativity of colonialism, its legacy had nevertheless left us with some benefits.
Adding to Zille’s already substantial woes, former DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko last week said in a speech that she felt undermined by Zille during her time at the DA and that she felt that Zille was now doing the same thing to Maimane.
“I want you to remember that women pulling each other down‚ women undermining each other in public‚ is not something that happens in the corporate [world]. It happens in different organisations, and it happens in politics,” Mazibuko said.
Zille denied these claims in an interview with Cape Talk’s Kieno Kammies, telling him she “absolutely supported her at every level”.
The Western Cape premier was unavailable for comment at the time of publication, and we will update the story if she gets back to us.
Additional reporting by Ilse de Lange