Johannesburg - DA leader Helen Zille says the opposition party’s youth leader, Mbali Ntuli, owes the organisation an apology for her unbecoming conduct.
Zille told The Sunday Independent that Ntuli’s behaviour in some instances was unprofessional.
“I certainly do not owe her an apology. On the contrary, she owes the DA one. But it is another example of the kind of behaviour I describe to view oneself as a victim when people say the things that need to be said,” she says.
“It won’t work, because the DA is an organisation of competent professionals who show consideration for each other by calling back when messages are left, and try to behave considerately and professionally in all difficult circumstances.”
Zille’s comments come in the wake of a spat with Ntuli at the party’s federal executive (Fedex) meeting last Friday.
At that gathering, during which academic Mamphela Ramphele’s DA presidential candidature was decided, Ntuli crossed swords with Zille, who called her a “princess” and a “prima donna”.
Zille said that she “drew the line” with Ntuli for “repeated instances of behaviour that I regarded as unprofessional”.
In the week leading up to the meeting – the DA’s highest decision-making body between congresses – Ntuli had publicly said she disagreed with the DA’s decision to march on Luthuli House in protest against the ANC manifesto’s promise of 6 million job opportunities by 2019.
But Zille was at pains to point out that Ntuli had the right to differ with her, as did anyone in the DA.
“And people all know this,” she said.
It is unclear if the march will go ahead after Joburg metro police refused to give permission for it this week.
However, the DA has said it will appeal against this decision.
Zille said Ntuli had not answered phone calls, and after SMS requests to return the calls, had replied saying that she was “not in the right space” to talk.
Zille said Ntuli “had a right” not to be in the “right space” to talk.
“If she had just shown the basic courtesy of replying to my messages, the issue would never have landed up at Fedex.
“I raised it at Fedex because she was refusing to discuss the issue, not me,” Zille said.
“She told Fedex she had sent out the tweet opposing the march without having read the DA’s statement on the march, nor having seen our reasons for undertaking it.
“When her tweet caused a minor media flurry, I was asked to go on radio, where I said that I was sure she would accept the reasons for the march once we had discussed and explained them.
“Mbali was upset that I had made these simple and truthful points in the interview.”
Zille was also upset that Ntuli had been late for a press conference last week at which the party had announced its premier candidates and list of preferred MPs.
Ntuli said she was not prepared to discuss Fedex meetings.
She also said she wanted to clarify that her tweet about the march was not out of malice.
“It was an opinion of what I thought was a strategically unsound decision. I considered it better for us to talk about our own offer on jobs, rather than amplify the ANC’s message on jobs from their manifesto,” she said.
“Despite my disagreement, I was always going to respect the decision made by the leadership, and would have attended the march.”
Ntuli said Zille had called her after she had already communicated regarding her tweets and Facebook updates with DA head of communications Gavin Davis and Zille’s chief of staff, Geordin Hill-Lewis.
Ntuli said both youth director Pierrenne Leukes and Zille’s spokesman, Cameron Arendse, were aware that the reason she was late for the press conference was that her car booking was cancelled the day before the press conference.
“Repeated failure to return calls and SMSes is unacceptable behaviour in the DA – especially if you are aware that the issue is important because of escalating media attention,” Zille said.
“In politics, you have to be prepared to be ‘in a bad space’ several times a day, but you have to learn to swallow hard and get on with it. And it is best to learn how to do that early on.
“We all learnt these lessons along the way,” she added.
Zille charged that she had the right to talk about Ntuli’s conduct.
“I am entirely within my rights to describe several examples of Mbali’s conduct… as ‘prima donna’ behaviour,” she said.