This is according to political analyst Lukhona Mnguni, reacting to Maimane using his speech in Sharpeville to reiterate that Helen Zille’s comments on colonialism are not those of his party.
Speaking at the African Methodist Episcopal Church - metres from the Sharpeville memorial precinct - during a service commemorating the 1960 massacre, Maimane said: “Slavery, forced labour, displacement, violent subjugation, racial classification with its humiliating tests, making people think they were inferior because of the colour of their skin, industrialised exploitation - these things are all, and much else besides, the legacy of those systems of repression and exploitation.”
Western Cape Premier and former DA leader Zille last week caused a stir in a series of tweets when she said: “For those claiming the legacy of colonialism was only negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc.”
She further said: “Getting onto an aeroplane now and won’t get onto the wi-fi so I can cut off those who think every aspect of colonial legacy was bad.”
Zille later apologised and Maimane announced that the party would hold a disciplinary hearing over her tweets.
Mnguni said: “This is the perfect time for Mmusi to show that he is in charge. If he treats Helen with kid gloves, it will give a sense that he is not in charge. But this does not mean she must go through a process that is unfair for her.”
He said the DA would use the disciplinary action against Zille to “unequivocally indicate where the party stands in terms of redressing the injustices of the past. This is the perfect moment for Maimane to break ranks with the politics of worrying about white feelings in the party.”
Mnguni said it was not worrisome that Zille hadn’t been charged a week after her comments. He said the process takes a bit of time in the party.
Mnguni’s views were reiterated by Dr Joleen Steyn-Kotze of the University of the Free State’s Centre for African Studies, who said Maimane needed to steer the DA away from the white-party narrative.
“The DA is moving towards the 2019 national elections with the tag that it is a white party. Helen Zille’s comments don’t help those views much. Maimane needs to begin taking control of the DA and move it away from perceptions that it is a white party,” she said.
Addressing the congregation, Maimane said: “There is no amount of infrastructure that can ever erase the amount of pain people felt under the system of apartheid. Development that is forced upon a country under threat of violence is not human progress.”
The DA and EFF boycotted yesterday’s provincial commemorations hosted by Gauteng Premier David Makhura at the precinct. Makhura said this was despite his trying to make the commemorations nonpartisan.
He asserted that the provincial government worked well with the PAC - the party that led the marches in Sharpeville and in Langa, Cape Town. “We have always wished we could work better with the PAC. The PAC and the ANC played a very important role in relation to the event,” Makhura said.
But Maimane said his party refused to join the commemorations because the ANC used official events for its own benefit.
The EFF’s Gauteng provincial secretary, Malesela Ledwaba, said the party boycotted the event because “the ANC government is using the same tactics that were used by the apartheid regime”.