Cape Town - The battle for the post of DA parliamentary leader has taken a twist, with DA Eastern Cape leader Athol Trollip accusing federal chairman Wilmot James of being behind media leaks as he wanted to take over from Lindiwe Mazibuko.
Mazibuko left the party to go and study abroad.
Party leader Helen Zille and senior party members have since been embroiled in a war of words over media leaks and succession.
In email correspondence seen by the Cape Times, the party’s federal executive (Fedex) members, who met on Friday, accused each other of having hung the “DA’s laundry in public” following Mazibuko’s shock announcement that she would not be returning to Parliament.
The emails paint a picture of a divided leadership as the party deals with the aftermath of Mazibuko’s departure.
“We have often spoken about the unfortunate leaks that characterise the Fedex from time to time,” Zille wrote on Saturday.
“Well, last Friday’s meeting exceeded itself, and as usual, the angle and the tenor of the leaks have been distorted to serve particular interests.
“My impression, and I am sure that of almost everyone else in the meeting, was that the discussion was frank, open, constructive – and a real credit to the party that we could have such an open and civil exchange between ourselves on highly complex and potentially divisive issues.”
In a separate email directed at DA communications director Gavin Davis, Trollip said if one traced the media sources of internal party discussions, “one can easily join the dots” to see where the leaks originated.
“In this case it is clear that Wilmot has or had informed the media that he was going to defend Lindiwe’s decision in the Fedex and take you (Davis) on. This is understandable as he was her ‘sponsor’/referee to her Harvard application. Now it seems that maybe he was trying to pave his way to a position that he has clearly coveted since he joined the DA as his name was linked in a similar way in the build up to the 2009 parliamentary leadership contest,” Trollip wrote.
He also warned that the party could be headed the way of Cope and Agang because of “inflated egos”.
“May the best man or woman win so that the DA can continue its March to the Union Buildings led by men and women who put the interests of our voters and country far ahead of their own. Remember what inflated egos bequeathed Cope and Agang,” Trollip wrote.
In an email to James, Davis said it was “disappointing” that James had seen fit to brief a journalist before the Fedex meeting that he would be “leading the charge” against Davis’s “rebuttal of Gareth van
Van Onselen, a former DA official and Sunday Times senior journalist, had written a controversial column in Business Day last week about the “real reasons” Mazibuko left Parliament.
“I see in your comments to the newspaper that you believe I was wrong to hang out the DA’s laundry in public. This is deeply ironic considering that you were briefing a journalist on the matter. If you (James) are so concerned about airing laundry in public, then why are you still driving the issue in the media? Since when do we brief the media about confidential matters to be discussed at Fedex?” Davis asked.
James said on Sunday: “I’m not prepared to comment on leaked correspondence from the DA federal executive.”
Responding to the weekend reports in her SA Today newsletter released on Sunday, Zille said reports of her saying she “made” Mazibuko were the “abuse of media to drive internal agendas in the DA”.
Zille said it was DA “convention” not to speak out of the federal executive.
“But given that a few members of the Fedex have chosen to ignore this convention, I must set out the facts.”
She conceded she had “worked very hard to promote Lindiwe’s career”.
“In fact, I said I had never done as much to promote any person’s career in the DA before. This is an objective, evidence-based fact. I did not say I ‘made her’,” Zille wrote.