Gareth van Onselen, former head of politics and governance at the Institute for Race Relations (IRR) and, before that, an employee of the Democratic Alliance (DA) for 12 years, has written a column in which neither the think tank or the party come off well.
The DA, Van Onselen writes, has now descended into a quagmire of “leaks, fights, slurs, vicious gossip and internal poison, much of which is playing out publicly”.
He believes the most dangerous “toxin” fuelling the DA’s troubles is race, and accuses leader Mmusi Maimane of having “played an entirely irresponsible role in setting the scene for a potential race war”.
The IRR, however, doesn’t come off much better in the column.
Van Onselen accuses the think tank’s newly-launched #savetheopposition campaign of being “entirely political because, on reading the relevant statement, it is devoid of substantive argument or evidence”.
A third victim of Van Onselen’s ire is the media, which he says is “no less disgraceful” than the DA in its “utter contempt for perspective, evidence and reason”.
“It seems set to make race the fundamental and only issue, at the expense of any considered analysis,” he says.
In the column, Van Onselen comes to the conclusion that regardless of the motives behind the IRR’s “attempts to influence the DA”, their campaign simply “isn’t working”.
“There are many in the DA, of all persuasions, who have contempt for the IRR’s approach, whatever its merits,” he says.
The full column can be read here.
Last week, the DA’s financial committee found there was no wrongdoing committed by Maimane following allegations that he drove a car bought by Steinhoff’s Markus Jooste and allegedly declared a R4-million Claremont home he was renting as his own.
In a statement, DA finance chairperson and MP Dion George said it was Maimane who referred the matter to the finance committee for an investigation, after anonymous leaks about his accommodation and travel arrangements were published by different media houses.
Following the investigation, George found: “As it relates to travel arrangements, Mr Maimane did enjoy the use of a Toyota Fortuner in the Western Cape, donated to the party by Steinhoff via their subsidiary, Hertz.
“After the Steinhoff scandal broke, the car was returned. There was a delay due in part to the leader’s international trip to the USA and a Federal Congress taking place in Gauteng.”
Maimane was also cleared on the details around his home.
George said he found no financial illegality on behalf of Maimane, pertaining to both the house and the car, despite City Press originally reporting that Maimane had declared the Claremont home in the parliamentary assets registry as his own, even though the house did not belong to him.
In the wake of what Maimane has described as a smear campaign against him following the fallout from the DA’s worse-than-expected electoral results, the DA leader has called for an early elective conference to be held to test the faith his party members still have in his leadership.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Additional reporting, Charles Cilliers.)