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Cape Town - Democratic Alliance MP and party spokeswoman Phumzile van Damme – whose South African citizenship has come under scrutiny – is the target of a smear campaign, according to members of her party.
Party insiders were reacting to reports that the young MP was not a South African citizen and may have misrepresented where she was born.
The Sunday Times reported that Van Damme was born in Manzini, Swaziland, in 1983, and that her mother, Lynette van Damme, was also born in Swaziland.
The report said Van Damme’s biological father, Elroy Mayisela, was also a Swazi national. This, according to the report, makes her ineligible to hold parliamentary office.
DA spokesman Marius Redelinghuys said it would be “dangerous for us to speculate about the motivation behind it and the timing”.
“There are two possible sources. One is on Phumzile’s mother’s side. She was involved with the ANC, but I don’t know the status of her membership now, and those would be people familiar with the circumstances.
“On the other hand, there are people who were in the DA and friends with people who were friends with Phumzile. I wouldn’t personally rule that out,” said Redelinghuys.
He said people who had left the party and now worked in the media could have been behind the story.
Redelinghuys said Van Damme’s recent personal investigation revealed that her birth was registered at Home Affairs in Pietermaritzburg in the mid-1990s.
“Van Damme is a South African citizen. Her status is protected by section 20 of the constitution. She is entitled to citizenship regardless, through her biological father and grandparents. Van Damme and the DA will protect this status vigorously,” said Redelinghuys.
He said the party would approach the press ombudsman.
One of Van Damme’s colleagues didn’t rule out members from within the party.
“It can only be two things. It’s either people loyal to (former parliamentary leader) Lindiwe Mazibuko who are exposing her. It could also be people from Helen’s (Zille) side because Phumzile has no portfolio; so if she gets removed from Parliament, they will not lose anything,” said a party insider close to Zille.
The member said the developments could be because Van Damme “has no backbone” after working more closely with Zille following Mazibuko’s departure.
“It could also be someone in Mmusi (Maimane) and Helen’s camp. I don’t think it was Lindiwe’s people,” said the insider.
Another party member who worked closely with Van Damme and Mazibuko said the newly elected MP was shocked when approached on the matter.
“It sounds improbable, but there might be someone out to get her. Her mother was involved in the ANC in exile in Swaziland. Could it be some of her (mother’s) friends? It was most well orchestrated. It can’t be a coincidence that these guys landed on this piece of information,” said the member.
ANC parliamentary spokesman Moloto Mothapo said “in its window-dressing” and “parading black people to conceal its real identity, the DA cut corners and in the process exposed a young African woman to unnecessary public humiliation”.
“The DA should take full responsibility for putting her in this situation by flouting processes in its bid to use young blacks as window-dressing in its ranks,” said Mothapo.
Van Damme could not be reached for comment on Sunday.