Zille tweet is­sue won’t di­vide DA, say in­sid­ers

‘Maimane has to set path for party to fol­low up to 2019’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - WEEK­END AR­GUS RE­PORTER

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.

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