Zille tweet issue won’t divide DA, say insiders
‘Maimane has to set path for party to follow up to 2019’
SOURCE in the DA have painted a picture of Helen Zille as an isolated figure in a party that overwhelmingly backs her prime accuser, leader Mmusi Maimane.
Neither a split nor any significant revolt is anticipated within party structures. It is thought that should Zille lose in her disciplinary hearing at the end of the month, some people might leave the party, but not on any significant scale. One source asked: “Where would they go?”
It is suggested that most of Zille’s support lies in the Western Cape, particularly among those who believed their jobs depended on supporting the embattled premier.
“Maybe one or two people who depend on her for their jobs will go down with her, but I don’t see a split in the making,” a source said.
Jitters in the business community, where many view her as a symbol of clean, effective governance, would also be a factor. But it is said that even former friends of Zille are behind Maimane, and believe Zille should go.
Party insiders said Maimane’s primary political objective of gaining electoral ground in 2019 was the single most pressing issue in the party, and for Zille to have misperceived that – and not only declined to apologise but advanced a defence of her tweet – was “unacceptable”.
Sources said her dogged insistence that she was right in defending her “colonialism” tweet – widely held to have been politically injurious and insensitive – indicated that she would likely be willing to take her fight to the courts, where she might win.
“The irony is that she will be doing so to try to protect her legacy, but will end up destroying it. If she does win, she will be out of the picture altogether in 2019 anyway... it will be a pyrrhic victory,” a source said.
The source said the best outcome would be for her to “just go”. It was “unacceptable” that, on the strength of an ill-judged tweet on a topic worthy of academic debate, and her refusal to acknowledge the damage it had done politically, Zille was determined to pursue a defensive strategy.
It was possible the party would seek to “make a deal” to limit the damage.
“She is incapable of saying, I was wrong and I am sorry, and that is awful,” a long-standing party member said.
“She has contributed might- ily to the cause and the party, and it would have been great if she had continued being premier to 2019. She is a clever analyst, and she is associated with good governance – but she is in the habit of wanting to manipulate and control.
“This is destructive. Parties must focus on elections. She must get out of the way.”
The source said while there were qualms in the party about the process followed – it had been “too hasty”, and Zille had been “judged”, with “due process not being followed entirely” – there was “a bigger issue” at stake: Maimane had set out a path for the DA to follow up to 2019, “and Helen is setting another path... and that’s utterly unacceptable”.
The source said Maimane had “made some silly mistakes in his keenness to get rid of Helen – and that’s also part of the problem – but he is just a bit inexperienced. He is learning fast, and he is the elected leader – and so people must support him.”
There was an appreciation in the party that while the tweet saga was a reflection of the adjustments the party needed to make with a new leader, the political terrain had also changed since the local government elections.
Provincial party structures had become more powerful where the DA won metros.
“There’s a different power architecture in the DA today, which is something Helen never faced – and Mmusi has to respond to that.”
Sources say Helen Zille’s insistence that she was right in defending her ‘colonialism’ tweet indicates she would likely be willing to take her fight to the courts, where she may win.