The DA has confirmed that its leader John Steenhuisen has replaced MP, Phumzile Van Damme, as shadow minister of Communications and Digital Technologies with Zak Mbele.
Van Damme was asked to take a three-month sabbatical due to health concerns.
In an extremely short statement issued by the DA’s Chief Whip, Natasha Mazzone, the party on Saturday said that Steenhuisen had decided to make changes to his “Shadow Cabinet”.
“Following standard procedure, as is customary after a Federal Congress, the DA leader, John Steenhuisen MP, in consultation with Caucus Leadership, has the prerogative to amend his Shadow Cabinet.
“In accordance with his vision as outlined in his election manifesto which was accepted by an overwhelming 80% majority of DA congress delegates, we have the pleasure of announcing the new DA Shadow Cabinet that will bring Real Hope and Real Change, Now (sic).”
‘Talk to my lawyers’
Earlier on Saturday, Van Damme took to Twitter to say that she was “merely informed” of her sabbatical.
She had already been on sick leave for three months which was to end on 15 December.
While she said on Twitter that she would abide by the instruction and remain on sabbatical until the end of March, the “party and I will talk through my lawyers in 2021”.
In a letter to Van Damme on Friday, Steenhuisen wrote: “I remain deeply concerned about your health situation and the four chronic illnesses that you have been diagnosed with. I understand that these have become incredibly debilitating for you to perform every day functions, like walking, due to the chronic pain, vertigo and dizziness. I also know that you require significant periods of bed rest.”
He told News24: “I have had to make changes to my shadow cabinet after my election, having inherited a shadow cabinet I did not appoint. It is the prerogative of the leader to do so and has been exercised by every DA leader.
“This is a decision made in consultation with the caucus leadership and with Ms Van Damme’s best interests at heart, I am sorry she is trying to portray it otherwise.”