Red card for Zille turns out to be yel­low

DA forced to back down af­ter it sus­pends West­ern Cape pre­mier

Sunday Times - - POLITICS - THABO MOKONE and JAN-JAN JOUBERT

DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s rush to have his pre­de­ces­sor He­len Zille sus­pended has left the party with egg on its face.

It emerged yes­ter­day that the party had flouted its own con­sti­tu­tion.

In a bid to flex his mus­cles and show that he was in charge of the party, Maimane con­vened a press con­fer­ence at OR Tambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port to an­nounce that Zille’s party mem­ber­ship has been sus­pended.

But Zille im­me­di­ately hit back, is­su­ing a state­ment say­ing she would “not be bul­lied into re­sign­ing or in­crim­i­nat­ing my­self”.

She then ac­cused the DA of flout­ing its own con­sti­tu­tion by not first giving her an op­por­tu­nity to make rep­re­sen­ta­tions on why she could not be sum­mar­ily sus­pended.

Re­al­is­ing its mis­take, the DA then is­sued a fur­ther state­ment say­ing it had only writ­ten to Zille “to sig­nify its in­ten­tion to tem­po­rar­ily sus­pend her”.

It said she had 72 hours to sub­mit rea­sons why she should not be sus­pended.

Maimane said yes­ter­day that the party’s fed­eral ex­ec­u­tive had de­cided to sus­pend Zille from all party ac­tiv­i­ties pend­ing her dis­ci­plinary hear­ing on charges re­lated to her colo­nial­ism tweets.

Maimane said Zille had re­fused to apol­o­gise.

But Zille de­nied this yes­ter­day.

“I have apol­o­gised pub­licly. What I have not agreed to do is plead guilty to charges of mis­con­duct, which I never com­mit­ted.”

She said she would not ac­cept be­ing found guilty be­fore the hear­ing.

“I can­not be bul­lied into re­sign­ing or in­crim­i­nat­ing my­self.”

In­sid­ers said the de­ci­sion to keep Zille as pre­mier was in­flu­enced by a le­gal opin­ion tabled at the meet­ing. It con­tended that Zille could not curto rently be re­moved as West­ern Cape pre­mier.

Al­though Zille pre­vi­ously said she had turned down those who had tried to per­suade her to stand for the po­si­tion of leader of the West­ern Cape, the in­tended sus­pen­sion means that she will also for­mally not be el­i­gi­ble to stand for any po­si­tion in the party. She will also be banned from speak­ing pub­licly on be­half of the DA un­til the dis­ci­plinary hear­ing against her has been con­cluded.

Maimane had been un­der pres­sure to act against Zille from within and out­side the DA show that he was in charge.

But the de­ci­sion is ex­pected to cause di­vi­sions within the party and among sup­port­ers be­cause she still en­joys sup­port, es­pe­cially from the party’s white con­stituency.

In­sid­ers said Maimane put up a case to sus­pend Zille be­fore the ex­ec­u­tive’s de­ci­sion be­cause she re­peat­edly de­fied him by turn­ing down his re­quests for her to apol­o­gise for her tweets in March that praised colo­nial­ism.

Sources said the West­ern Cape in­terim DA leader, Bonginkosi Madik­izela, Lim­popo leader Jac­ques Smalle and DA Women’s Net­work leader Denise Robin­son, as well as Gaut­eng MPL Kate Lorimer had not sup­ported the de­ci­sion to re­move Zille from the struc­tures of the party.

Madik­izela, who is also the MEC for hu­man set­tle­ments, was Zille’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer dur­ing her ten­ure as Cape Town mayor.

This week she cleared him of al­le­ga­tions of im­pro­pri­ety af­ter con­trac­tors trad­ing with the pro­vin­cial govern­ment treated him to a lav­ish birth­day party at a Cape Town ho­tel.

Other sources said Maimane was backed by par­lia­men­tary chief whip John Steen­huisen and Nel­son Man­dela Bay mayor Athol Trol­lip. Maimane also had the sup­port of Gaut­eng leader John Moodey, Joe McGluwa of North West and Nqaba Bhanga of the Eastern Cape.

North­ern Cape leader An­drew Louw voted in favour of the sus­pen­sion while Free State leader Patricia Kopane did not speak at the meet­ing but voted in favour of Zille’s sus­pen­sion.

Kwa-Zulu-Natal leader Zwakele Mncwango also sup­ported the de­ci­sion to sus­pend Zille.

A pro­vin­cial leader who pre­ferred to re­main anony­mous said it was a tense two-and-halfhour meet­ing.

“The meet­ing was very dif­fer­ent from your usual [ex­ec­u­tive]. It was tense — you could cut the ten­sion with a knife.

“At the same time, ev­ery­body clearly felt free to speak their minds.

“No one was left in any doubt about where any­one stood,” the leader said.

At times, tem­pers flared dur­ing the meet­ing, with sources say­ing there was a mo­ment of ill tem­per be­tween Madik­izela and na­tional DA spokes­woman Phumzile van Damme.

Ap­proached for com­ment, Smalle said the dis­cus­sions at the meet­ing of the fed­eral ex­ec­u­tive had been dif­fi­cult.

Asked to ex­plain how Zille was ex­pected to gov­ern with­out en­gag­ing party struc­tures, Maimane said she would be guided by the DA’s man­i­festo from the 2014 elec­tion.

“We’ve got a man­i­festo. We’ve sent her to the pro­vin­cial govern­ment to im­ple­ment that and there’s a gov­er­nance unit that she’ll work with,” he said.

The DA’s fed­eral le­gal com­mis­sion is now ex­pected to ex­pe­dite its dis­ci­plinary process against Zille af­ter it has been stalling for the past seven weeks since she was charged.

Her dis­ci­plinary hear­ing is sched­uled to start on Fri­day.

I can­not be bul­lied into re­sign­ing or in­crim­i­nat­ing my­self It was tense — you could cut the ten­sion with a knife

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Pic­ture: MOELETSI MABE

MAIMANE CALLS THE SHOT: DA leader Mmusi Maimane an­nounces the sus­pen­sion of He­len Zille yes­ter­day

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