Maimane gets tough on Zille
DA leader Mmusi Maimane has said he considered comments made, to the effect that he was scared to act against former party leader Helen Zille, as racist. This comes as a number of political commentators and political opponents have challenged Maimane to “show balls and get rid of Zille”. “I think that is wrong on two accounts. There is an undertone which says black people can’t lead except when they are managed by white people, which I think is racist at its core. I think it undermines Africans; it undermines us as a people,” he said during an interview with City Press this week.
Maimane also sounds upset by allusions that he was “made” by Zille and that he would find it difficult to act against her.
“There is this view in SA that says that black leaders are made. It is worrying to hear people say that the only way a black person can lead is if they are made by somebody [who is white]. It is a deeply demeaning view. As far as I know, I had a contestation at congress and we fought for a leadership position.
“This thing that so-and-so is made by so-and-so, has its roots in racism,” Maimane said.
Maimane added that as a matter of fact, Zille had not been active in the DA as an organisation, and Zille has been focusing on working for the Western Cape government.
“Helen and I have a relationship but I am not in any way [beholden to her],” he said.
“I am loyal to the cause. I took action. I referred the matter to the legal federal commission, as I would [in the case of] anybody [else],” said Maimane.
Zille was expected to be charged with contravening the DA’s social media policy and for bringing the party into disrepute. The disciplinary sanction for the social media charge is termination of membership.
Maimane revealed that he spoke to Zille following her tweets but he wouldn’t divulge the details of their conversation besides that he told her the tweet was not right and that “she must appreciate the actions I am going to take”.
“I was not treating her any differently. I dealt with Dianne Kohler Barnard the same, and with others before her. I call people in and I take them on when they say things that are not consistent with the organisation [policy],” said Maimane.
City Press understands that talks are afoot among supporters of Zille to withdraw her support from Maimane at next year’s federal congress, or to financially make life difficult for the DA leader. But a DA insider told City Press: “That will be an empty threat because there is not enough time to pick someone new [as leader]. That would completely destabilise the party.”
Zille was considered to have issued a direct challenge to Maimane in an online article this week. Zille wrote: “Speaking while white” is considered the ultimate sin, in terms of the increasingly popular ideology called “critical race theory”.
“The real danger is that the DA, in its quest for votes, may start to swallow every tenet, myth and shibboleth of African racial-nationalist propaganda, including the scapegoating of minorities, populist mobilisation and political patronage. Then the institutionalisation of corruption will only be a matter of time,” Zille wrote.
Insiders in the party have interpreted the opinion piece as a dig at Maimane’s move to grow black support for the party.
But Maimane is prepared to ensure that there is no special dispensation accorded to certain people in the DA.
“How can you run an organisation where some people are more important than others?
“People want me to stop a particular process and I am saying it is not about stopping a particular process, it is about respecting the organisation enough to say no one individual is bigger than the organisation.”
Asked how donors organised by Zille might react, he said: “If people fund us because they are sponsoring an individual then we have got a problem.
“People must fund the DA because that is the organisation we love.”
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which has been voting with the DA in some municipalities since the August 3 elections, has rejected Zille’s apology and demanded a meeting with the DA over her tweets. But the two sides are yet to meet. “I said we will afford them a meeting; they must afford us the details of what they want to discuss. I will happily meet with the EFF, but the legal process is still unfolding,” Maimane said.
DA sources have claimed that when Maimane announced in the parliamentary caucus last Thursday that he didn’t support Zille’s views, there was a round of applause across the caucus.
Maimane will have a say in Zille’s case when the sanction, if she is found guilty, goes to the DA federal executive, which Maimane leads.