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DA scores own goal in Helen Zille suspension saga

Politics
Cape Town - The DA’s attempt to suspend Helen Zille’s membership in the party for her tweets on colonialism ended in confusion on Saturday.

First, DA leader Mmusi Maimane announced she had been suspended, only for the party to state shortly afterwards that she had been served with a notice of intention - and had yet to be suspended.

Zille now has 72 hours to respond on why she should not be suspended until the end of her disciplinary hearing.

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Western Cape Premier Helen Zille File picture: Armand Hough/ANA Pictures

The DA said the final decision of the party’s federal executive will be made after her submission.

When Maimane called a media conference earlier, he stated that the federal executive had “resolved Zille be suspended from all party-related activities until such time as her disciplinary hearing is concluded. A notice of suspension will be served on Zille in this regard”.

Zille’s tweets which seemed to condone colonialism sent shockwaves through the party and the country. Many who criticised her for what she said called for the DA to remove her as Western Cape premier.

On Saturday, Maimane said it had become clear he and Zille held different attitudes about the mission the DA needed to accomplish by 2019.

Zille had refused to apologise for her tweets and public utterances, said Maimane.

He also said her justifications had damaged the party’s public standing.

Zille disputed this, saying she had apologised and told Independent Media she was seeking legal advice on whether she should take further steps against her party.

Before the DA backtracked on its earlier statements, Zille said her suspension was against the DA’s constitution, which required she be given time to make representations.

“I will not be pleading guilty for things that I haven’t done. I have apologised, there’s no question about that.

“I will not plead guilty to charges that have not been through a proper hearing,” Zille said.

Responding to Zille’s threats of legal action, the party’s federal executive chairperson, James Selfe, said “she must do what she needs to do”.

If Zille is suspended, she will remain as Western Cape premier as that position was a “legislative matter”, Maimane said.

This is within the law, according to Ebrahim Fakir from the Electoral Institute for Sustainability of Democracy in Africa.

Fakir said Zille had been elected through the legislature and could only be removed by a motion of no confidence, impeachment or through party expulsion - which requires a disciplinary hearing.

“Even if she is found guilty and she is expelled from the party, they would still have to go through the formal motion. So, it is either she has to formally resign or they will have to force a motion of no confidence. And they will have to ensure a three-line whip and DA members will have to vote her out,” Fakir said.

The backtracking between decisions of the party proved there was not just a political struggle in the DA, but an ideological one, Fakir said.

“There are some within the party who want a different tone on race and there are others who believe the race thing doesn’t matter. They are trying to fathom who they are.”

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said the way Zille had handled the matter showed she thought of herself as being above the party.

“She (Helen Zille) has been very divisive in how she handled the matter. She has been very aggressive in defending herself and does not even show remorse. Her attitudes undermine the leadership of the DA because she’s saying that she is bigger than DA,” Mathekga said.

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