In the wake of controversy about the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) openly campaigning to “save” the DA, the party has described the campaign as “nefarious”, and once again rejected it.
Party spokesperson Solly Malatsi accused the NGO on Tuesday afternoon of unacceptably trying to dictate DA policy and leadership outcomes, despite the IRR not being part of the DA.
He labelled this an attempt to capture the party, which could not be allowed.
The IRR on Monday launched a campaign called #SaveTheOpposition, which comes in the wake of internal wrangling in the official opposition between those trying to supposedly retain the party’s older, liberal values and those looking to transform the DA.
News24 reports that the former, seen as the “liberal bloc”, are clearly linked to former leader Helen Zille, who is vying to become the next federal council chairperson. She was until recently also a fellow at the IRR but resigned to pursue her DA election campaign.
The other bloc in the DA is aligned with current party leader Mmusi Maimane.
Last week, DA chief whip John Steenhuisen also slammed the IRR for how it was involving itself in the party politics of the DA.
An opinion piece by IRR analyst Hermann Pretorius called on Maimane to resign following the party’s “worst political performance” in the 2019 elections. He lobbied for current Western Cape premier Alan Winde to take over the party, primarily arguing that Winde had an excellent political record and that his being a white male should actually be celebrated in the supposed spirit of nonracialism.
Winde, however, downplayed any such personal ambitions on his part.
Steenhuisen made it clear the DA, officially at least, wanted nothing to do with the IRR’s latest messaging, rejecting it as “naked opportunism displayed by the IRR with its latest missive, in which it apparently seeks to raise funds in support of a presumed leadership contest within the DA”.
He said the DA had “noted the obsessive preoccupation that the IRR seems to have with the DA’s internal political and ideological conversations. This preoccupation has been increasing over the course of the last year or two.”
He encouraged the IRR, given that they had “such strong opinions about the DA’s leadership and internal debates”, to become members of the DA and “exercise their membership rights to participate in the DA’s next Congress, at which the party’s leadership will be elected, instead of sniping from the side-lines and shamelessly piggy-backing their fundraising appeals on to it”.
“Given their obsession with the DA, the other option for the IRR is to form their own political party and contest elections in its own name – rather than attempt to piggy-back on the DA’s successes in government, as it is currently trying to do while fronting as an NPO.”
Malatsi’s latest statement has underlined this view, saying the DA “has not and will never outsource its decision-making functions to outside bodies – doing so would be tantamount to capture of the organisation”.
“Only a Federal Congress, the Federal Council and Executive, as well as the National Management Committee, decide on the Party’s operations, policies and the like.”
He accused the IRR campaign of clearly being targeted at the DA and not the opposition as a collective.
“Had their campaign been a genuine gesture of ensuring strong opposition in South Africa, it would not have singled out one party. The DA is one of 13 opposition parties represented in the National Assembly.
“The IRR has deliberately and mischievously chosen to take a hostile position against the DA and four of our public representatives, in its latest salvo. This is unacceptable.”
DA MP Phumzile van Damme told News24 on Tuesday she was neither surprised nor bothered by the IRR slamming her and three other party leaders in its latest campaign to “save opposition politics”.
She did, however, add in communication with The Citizen that she and other affected parties are mulling a possible defamation suit in response.
The IRR has singled out Van Damme, youth leader Luyolo Mphithi and Herman Mashaba for allegedly triggering racial conflict in the DA.
Steeinhuisen also came in for criticism for his response to the IRR last week.
(Compiled by Charles Cilliers)