Cape Town - The DA is awaiting comment from its Western Cape deputy leader, Theuns Botha, before deciding whether there is a prima facie case against him, following accusations of dirty tricks, intimidation and abuse of power.
DA federal executive chairman James Selfe confirmed on Monday he had received a complaint - lodged with the party’s federal legal commission by DA MP Masizole Mnqasela - on Monday morning. Selfe said he was dealing with the matter “as quickly as I can”.
Mnqasela laid the complaint last week after it emerged that Botha, the former DA provincial leader, had sent an e-mail featuring the DA logo to federal congress delegates in which he indicated how they should vote in the party’s congress later this month.
Botha is campaigning for the re-election of DA MP Wilmot James to the position of DA federal chairman, while Mnqasela is challenging James for the position.
Last week, in an e-mail to the DA’s Western Cape delegates who will be voting at the congress - to be held at the OR Tambo Conference Centre in Ekurhuleni on November 24 and 25 - Botha voiced his support for James and urged the delegates to vote for him.
He added: “It would be greatly appreciated if you could reply to this e-mail address to confirm your support of MP Wilmot James.”
An outraged Mnqasela accused Botha of undemocratic behaviour, saying his actions were tantamount to “coercing members” on how to vote.
Mnqasela said he was calling for urgency in dealing with the matter. “Congress is round the corner. We need to do our best to demonstrate to all candidates that this process is fair, open and transparent and to reassure the delegates that when they go to congress to elect their leaders, nobody will force them to make certain decisions.”
Selfe said the complaint would “not necessarily” be sent from himself to Hendrik Schmidt, chairman of the DA’s federal legal commission.
“I have to apply my mind as to whether there is a prima facie case. In that respect, what I have done is referred the complaint to Mr Botha to ask him for his comment. As soon as I have received that, I will be in a position to determine how best to deal with the complaint.”
Selfe said he could not comment on the matter until he had heard “all sides of the story”.
Meanwhile, Botha’s spokeswoman, Liza Albrecht, said in an e-mail that Botha “has no comment on the matter”.
DA leader Helen Zille was also staying out of the fray. Mnqasela said he had taken the matter up as Botha’s e-mail had created an atmosphere that “undermines democracy” in the DA and which amounted to intimidation. “We cannot go to this congress in such a spirit. People must feel free to arrive there without feeling they are being forced to vote for someone.
“It boils down to the right to choose. We in the DA have been advocates of that for a long time and we cannot compromise on that… That is why the federal legal commission must do what is right.”
Mnqasela said he had tried on several occasions to engage Botha on the issue.
“I asked him to contact me back, which he did not do... Theuns is my colleague. I don’t want this issue to spiral out of control. We belong to the same party. But there should at least be some respect.”
Mnqasela said he remained confident of his chances of success in his bid for the post. His campaign message had been focused on unity, openness and transparency in the party and, with the help of his campaign manager, Toby Bennett, he had relied strongly on the social media to run a “personal” campaign, he said.
Mnqasela is no stranger to controversy: the DA instituted disciplinary proceedings against him on six counts of misconduct last year after he wrote a document suggesting that DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko was not black enough to lead the party in Parliament. He also accused Zille of running the DA like a spaza shop. The disciplinary proceedings ended in May after Mnqasela apologised unconditionally for the remarks.