Former DA leader and current policy fellow at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), Helen Zille, has defended an opinion piece a member of the institute wrote, calling for Mmusi Maimane to resign as leader of the opposition.
The piece has caused a furore in the party after the IRR quoted the opinion piece in a tweet: “The seed of the DA’s recovery has been planted by a white man in the Western Cape. Alan Winde should be the new leader of the DA. Stand with the IRR…”
It then asked people to join the institution or SMS their name at a cost of R1 per SMS.
The piece, written by Hermann Pretorius, an analyst at the institute, stated: “The honourable Mmusi Maimane should resign as leader of the Democratic Alliance.”
He suggested that Western Cape Premier Alan Winde shouldn’t be hesitant to take over, describing him as a “white, steady, reliable, white-haired male premier”.
Pretorius qualified the statement by saying that the DA should be the party to reject race-based politics.
It should also “reject the notion that the skin colour of politicians has any bearing on their ability to improve the lives of their constituents”.
Speaking to SAfm on Wednesday, Zille said the words were taken out of context.
“The bottom line of his (Pretorious’) argument was not that he (Winde) needs to be a leader because he is a white male, although, taken out context, that sentence could be made to read like that… but if you read it in context, what he is saying is the DA has to get away from race. That is the ANC and EFF’s paradigm.”
‘Freedom of speech’
“The point he (Pretorius) was making was that the DA cannot be a race-driven party,” Zille said in the interview.
“We (the DA) must stand for something completely different and leaders must be chosen based on capacity and merit.
“Mmusi [Maimane] is the leader of the DA, but that does not prevent people from discussing leadership in the party and I am not going to condemn Pretorius for exercising his freedom of speech,” she continued.
She added that there was nothing sinister about the timing of the column, saying that the institute encouraged people in its employ to write about and comment on matters in the public domain.
Pretorius’ piece comes as Maimane continues to fight for his political future after a Rapport article linked him to a Toyota Fortuner which disgraced former Steinhoff boss Markus Jooste gifted to the party.
It also comes after the Sunday Times reported that Maimane had been quizzed by senior DA MP Mike Waters about who paid rent at his Cape Town home, going as far as requesting documentary proof.
Maimane maintained that there was a smear campaign against him.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said in a statement that the party rejected “with contempt” the “naked opportunism” displayed by the IRR with its “latest missive”.
Walters told Business Day that the party’s internal finance committee was reportedly looking into the rental agreement for Maimane’s Claremont home and reports that he drove around in a car Jooste gifted to the party.
Meanwhile, Winde told News24 on Wednesday that he would not consider running for the position.