The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) federal executive (FedEx) has requested first sight of a review panel’s findings on the state of the party before the document is tabled at a federal council meeting next week.
News24 understands this is in line with a FedEx decision taken during a teleconference last week. It’s understood that a number of supporters of embattled leader Mmusi Maimane believe this will give them an advantage before the document is tabled at the crucial federal council meeting on October 18.
Maimane, who resumed his public duties this week, has been faced with increasing pressure since the party’s lacklustre performance during the national and provincial elections. It failed to grow its support, though it did manage to hold onto control of the Western Cape.
The DA chief has faced questions and criticism over his use of a car hired by disgraced former Steinhoff boss Markus Jooste, and over why he declared a R4 million Claremont, Cape Town home in Parliament’s assets registry, despite not owning the property.
“The genesis of the review panel lies with FedEx, not the federal council,” said a provincial leader, who spoke to News24 on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
The leader said senior party members had the right to see the review and to deliberate on its findings and recommendations before a larger structure gets insights into the review.
“In a company where resizing or restructuring has to happen, the findings and plans on how this will be done starts with board members. We are the board members in the DA,” continued the provincial leader.
Some insiders believe this move could assist Maimane in strengthening his own hand and dealing with those who seek to use the review panel report against him.
“He can look at it, study its strengths and weaknesses. Mmusi would be able to make a strong case on the way forward and to defend himself against some of the damning findings likely to be levelled against him,” a national leader explained to News24.
The federal council’s 150 delegates are expected to weigh in on the report, with most seemingly coming from the nine different provinces across the country, and with Gauteng and the Western Cape bringing the most delegates to the meeting.
Maimane’s supporters have also raised concerns over the actions of former party leader Tony Leon, who is one of the people on the review panel.
Over the weekend, the Sunday Times revealed that Leon, former DA chief strategist Ryan Coetzee, who led the review panel, and Capitec Bank co-founder Michiel le Roux were part of a delegation which met with Maimane, asking him to consider resigning in the interests of the party.
Several national and provincial leaders criticised the move, not only questioning what authority Leon and Coetzee had to make such a request, but also their objectivity when it came to assessing the state of the party and Maimane’s leadership.
“Who the hell is Tony? Who gave him that mandate?” asked another provincial leader.
“What all of this is already telling us is the review will probably say Mmusi must step down, he is part of the problem.”
Insiders have argued that not every aspect of the Leon-Coetzee review has to be accepted or endorsed by the party.
“A review is merely a review – it comes through with a recommendation. Federal council can accept or reject it, it can accept some parts and reject others,” said the second provincial leader.
“I won’t accept Mmusi stepping down as a leader.”
When News24 contacted Leon on Monday, he declined to say much, except that he was specifically appointed by the party to conduct a review, which was still being concluded, and that he would not comment until this was done.
Even when pushed about whether the review panel report would be delivered at this week’s Cape Town federal executive meeting, Leon said he couldn’t say much on processes.
“Our mandate is to present before federal council. If we have to do things in between, this will also be done,” said Leon.
“Ours is to deliver a report that is as comprehensive as possible on the challenges facing the party.”
DA national spokesperson Solly Malatsi confirmed a request had been made for FedEx to see the report first.
“The federal leader has requested that the report be tabled to FedEx, which is meeting this Friday ahead of federal council, which will still have its rightful opportunity to engage it in detail when it meets in two weeks,” said Malatsi.
Meanwhile, another prominent leader in the DA, Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba, has raised concerns over the many public spats involving party members, saying he was watching developments carefully. Mashaba has threatened to leave the organisation if “right-wing” influences took over the party.
“If it is to be taken over by the right-wing, some of us won’t feel at home,” he said.
Mashaba said he didn’t agree with those who believed the DA needed to return to what it was 10 to 15 years ago.
“I am watching this space closely, looking to see who stands for what among those contesting,” said Mashaba.
He was referring to the race for the position of federal council chairperson, which is likely to come down to a clash between former party leader Helen Zille and federal chairperson Athol Trollip. Thomas Walters and Michael Waters have also been nominated to replace James Selfe as the federal council chair.
Zille shocked political circles and people in the party when she announced her availability to serve in the role, with many questioning why she would want to serve in a position that is equivalent to the ANC’s secretary-general when she had been the leader of the organisation before stepping down in 2014.
It’s understood that many of the members who back Maimane will throw their weight behind his ally Trollip, while party members seen to represent the so-called liberal bloc are expected to vote in favour of Zille.
“It wouldn’t be fair to cast doubts on any one of them. If ever it’s taken over by people I don’t feel comfortable with, without any doubt I would go,” said Mashaba.
He also shared his thoughts on claims that Leon had asked Maimane to consider quitting.
“I find it disturbing in a week a non-profit organisation says Mmusi must step down, Tony Leon is also saying he must step aside,” remarked Mashaba, referring to an opinion piece published by the Institute of Race Relations, calling for Maimane to quit his job.
“He was put there by members. I don’t know where in the constitution was Tony given powers to make such a call. Tony has no powers to decide on the leadership of the party,” said Mashaba.
He said Maimane was elected by party members, not donors.
“If they think they can buy voters, then they can go to the ANC. The DA can’t be a party that buys votes,” said Mashaba.
The Johannesburg mayor also said he suspected Maimane was being targeted because of his stance on President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Maimane has been criticised by some in his party for raising the question about a R500,000 donation from former Bosasa chief executive Gavin Watson to Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign for the ANC presidency.
The question sparked an investigation by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s office. Mkhwebane found that Ramaphosa had deliberately misled parliament when he answered Maimane’s question.
The president has taken the public protector’s report on judicial review.