Cape Town - Former DA leader Tony Leon said there would be a “fault line” in the party if Helen Zille did not return to Parliament and instead, continued as Western Cape premier.
“For the sake of the party and Parliament as an institution, sooner rather than later, the party leader has to be in Parliament,” he told the Cape Town Press Club on Tuesday.
His comments follow the announcement by Lindiwe Mazibuko that she was taking a year-long break from politics to take up a scholarship at Harvard University.
“Structurally and institutionally there is a fault line in the DA between having two separate leaders: one in Parliament and one for the party. Perhaps sooner rather than later that needs to be joined together,” Leon said.
Zille hit back at Leon saying: “The fact that I am premier of a province has not caused any divisions in the caucus.”
Apart from Leon and DA federal chairman Wilmot James, no one within the party had raised concerns about her not going to Parliament, she said.
Leon said the situation in the DA caucus in Parliament “needed to stabilise”.
“There has been a too-high turnover of parliamentary leaders in the opposition. We have had four leaders of the official opposition in the last seven years since I left.”
Leon said he told Zille in 2007 when she was elected DA leader that she had to be in Parliament and not stay on as Cape Town mayor.
He said his concerns about Parliament and the future of the party remained.
“Huge damage has been done to the institution of Parliament. But as someone in the opposition said to me the other day: ‘there are no clean hands in this matter’,” he said.
Leon said while the ANC must bear most of the responsibility “the chief opposition party and its leader who chooses not to be in Parliament has inadvertently helped to diminish Parliament as an institution.”
Leon said Zille had be in Parliament if she wanted it to be the centre of public debate.
“You have to send your most senior and most serious-minded people,” he said.
He said Zille should either go to Parliament or a new parliamentary leader should be elected and he or she must be elected as party leader at the earliest opportunity.