DA leader John Steenhuisen’s expression of willingness to cooperate with the ANC does not signify a change in the DA’s position, the party’s chief whip Natasha Mazzone has said.
Mazzone on Monday filed a complaint with the Press Ombudsman following an article in the Sunday Times which said that Steenhuisen’s stance that the DA would be willing to work with “reformers” in the ANC, “… marks a significant departure for the DA, which has long been opposed to any co-operation with the ANC”.
Mazzone, in a letter to the ombudsman, wrote: “This is simply not true. Not only has the DA under Steenhuisen’s leadership repeatedly extended a hand across the aisle to whichever reformers remain in the ANC, this has also been the consistent position of the previous DA Federal Leader, Mmusi Maimane, who often spoke of building a new majority by co-operating with those in the ANC who share the DA’s values and vision for South Africa.”
She quotes a number of reports on this, including a speech at Constitution Hill in 2017, in which Maimane said: “We need to put all our energies into saving our country.
“And I am prepared to work with all parties that share this goal. This includes those good people remaining in the ANC who have been moved by recent events to speak out about what is happening in their party.
“Today, I extend a hand of friendship to all of them. I want them to know that we are open to working with them in the future, in a new and realigned political landscape.”
She said Steenhuisen’s views were not accurately reflected in the paper, and in his answers he stated that the DA, “… intends to be the strong party of a new, realigned majority built around shared values.”It intends to be the bulwark against the creep of the radical left in the guise of the ANC’s RET faction and the EFF, who have already launched their fightback campaign.”
She also said Steenhuisen himself, in his reply to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address two weeks ago, said the DA would be introducing Bills to reform the economy – in line with Ramaphosa’s plans – and that the party only needed, “… a little more than a third”, of the ANC to back them.
She said apart from Maimane, former party leader Helen Zille – now federal council chairperson – also, “… called for a political realignment where centrists in the ANC and other parties work with the DA to fix South Africa”.
Mazzone also said the opening sentence of the article, which was based on an interview with Steenhuisen himself, “… sought to create the impression that the DA was open to a coalition agreement with the ANC”.
Mazzone said the party transcribed the hour-long interview and found that Steenhuisen never mentioned the word “coalition”.
“This was never stated in the interview and is a misrepresentation of the DA’s position on the issue,” she wrote.
The Sunday Times wrote: “DA leader John Steenhuisen has opened the door to a possible coalition with the ANC should there be a stalemate in the 2024 elections – but only if President Cyril Ramaphosa is still its leader.”
Mazzone, who posted a link to the recording with the DA’s online statement, said: “When he (Steenhuisen) spoke of the possibility of working together with the ANC, he didn’t mention coalitions. He spoke of reaching out to the reformers in the party who are in favour of a pro-growth agenda and seeking their support in backing a reform agenda when tabled in parliament.”
She said this wasn’t the same as a coalition.
Liberal political commentator and writer Gareth van Onselen, however, said in his view the paper’s report was an accurate representation of what Steenhuisen said.
Some within the DA have taken to slamming the Sunday Times . MP Ghaleb Cachalia accused the Sunday Times of “shamelessly twisting” Steenhuisen’s words.