Newly elected Democratic Alliance (DA) federal chairperson Helen Zille once again defended herself against allegations that she is “right wing” during an interview with Eusebius McKaiser on 702 on Monday morning.
This follows the announcement of City of Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba that he would be resigning from his position, citing Zille’s return as his primary reason.
He has said Zille’s election as federal chairperson heralds the rise of “right-wing elements” within the party.
Zille, however, says that Mashaba is in fact more right wing than she is.
“Herman Mashaba has always been significantly to the right of me, when I was one of the people who was helping recruit Herman to the DA I said to my colleague, he’s far to the right of us, he was president of the free market foundation, I could almost say a free market fundamentalist.”
She added that he didn’t believe in social grants at the time, and that they decided to encourage his leadership in the DA despite this.
“Everyone agreed it was enough in the ballpark to recruit him and that he would be a fiery and strong supporter,” she said.
Zille defended comments in an eNCA interview that she was involved in the struggle against apartheid while Mashaba had been “making a fortune in business”.
“I’ve been with the party since the progressives many many years ago, and Herman will always remember that when he was being a very, very successful businessman, and I take my hat off to him for being an entrepreneur and a highly successful in days when there were huge obstacles in his path.
“But he will remember that while he was making a fortune in business, I was hiding Umkhonto weSizwe operatives in my house, and I was exposing the murder of Steve Biko, so I’m not sure who these right-wingers are who he’s referring to,” Zille told eNCA.
She made similar comments on 702, saying while she respects Herman Mashaba “deeply” for what he was able to achieve in “the dark days of apartheid, I was at the time in the trenches fighting apartheid, exposing the brutalities of apartheid, hiding political opponents of the regime in my house.
“So for Herman to say that there is something wrong with the values and vision of the DA now that I have returned is incomprehensible,” she added.
Zille said that Mashaba’s departure is “obviously regrettable.
“I don’t know why he’s resigned,” she said, but added that her “understanding from some people was that he thought I would bring to an end his mayoralty in Johannesburg, or so I am told, I don’t know if this is true as I haven’t spoken to him.”
She said she believes Mashaba wanted “to resign before his government was taken out” and that he should have known based on the DA’s constitution that she has “no power to do that”.
After McKaiser asked if she had reached out to Mashaba prior to his departure, Zille said she instead reached out to DA leader Mmusi Maimane due to party protocol.
“Mmusi and I spoke on the telephone, we had a long conversation which I am not discussing on the radio, I am not going to start marginalising the leader by having those discussions directly,” she said.