DA leader John Steenhuisen fired his outspoken public enterprises shadow minister Ghaleb Cachalia from his ‘cabinet’ for breaking ranks with the party over its stance on the Israel-Palestine war.
Steenhuisen wrote to Cachaliaon Thursday informing him of his decision to remove him for going against the party’s national caucus decision that members should refrain from making public pronouncements.
Cachalia had tweeted that he would not be silenced and went on to accuse Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians.
This appears to have ruffled feathers in the DA, with Steenhuisen saying in his letter: “I hereby inform you that I have taken the decision to relieve you of your position as a member of the shadow cabinet. I thank you for the contribution you have made and wish you well going forward.”
The axing of Cachalia stems from the DA’s national caucus meeting on October 19 when the Middle East conflict was discussed.
Steenhuisen said the caucus had affirmed the party’s position in favour of a two-state solution while calling for international law and access to humanitarian aid to be upheld at all times in Gaza.
“Caucus affirmed that our shadow minister for international relations and co-operation would be the DA’s spokesperson on this matter. We further resolved to create a dedicated policy platform where all members would have the opportunity to contribute towards a structured discussion on foreign policy matters, including our approach to the Middle East conflict.”
He also said it was agreed that caucus members would refrain from public pronouncements aimed at causing division or further inflaming the “volatile, sensitive and profoundly emotional issue”.
Steenhuisen stated that Cachalia had on October 31 violated the caucus decision by tweeting: “I will not be silenced. Israel is committing Genocide. Full BLOODY stop.”
He accused Cachalia of being defiant when he disregarded the caucus decision. “It subsequently emerged that you also engaged the media on this matter in a way that further fuels division. Your conduct amounts to a display of remarkable selfishness. You have demonstrated a disregard for a formal decision of the DA’s national caucus.”
Steenhuisen added that Cachalia’s conduct was deeply disrespectful towards his colleagues, many of whom feel equally strongly about this and other matters, but continuously engaged with each other, with the party and with the public in an appropriately respectful manner.
“Your conduct, in wilful violation of a caucus decision, is deeply undermining of my leadership and unbecoming of someone who holds a senior position in my shadow cabinet. I find this situation deeply regrettable as I have always regarded you as a respected colleague, and as a good friend, but our party is on the verge of assuming the reins of national government next year,” he said.
Approached for comment, Steenhuisen’s spokesperson, Charity McCord, said he “is not available this evening” before referring questions to national spokesperson Solly
Malatsi, who confirmed Cachalia’s axing.
About his axing, Cachalia said: “I am considering my response to the leaked letter which was sent by Steenhuisen to me. I will revert after I have considered the matter and taken advice from those I value.”
He also took to social media X, formerly Twitter, saying he was now a backbencher.
“Certainly going to make life less hectic. Please direct all DPE enquiries to Mimmy Gondwe MP. She is now DA shadow minister for public enterprises and is well qualified to deal with a complex shadow ministry.”