Given the inaccuracy of the Sunday Times article, I feel it is necessary to set the record straight, says Helen Zille.
The Sunday Times (of May 18) makes false claims about what transpired at a meeting of the DA’s Federal Executive (Fedex) on Friday, 16 May. Given the inaccuracy of the article, I feel it is necessary to set the record straight in this newsletter.
I will also set out why these false attacks are being launched at this time.
The Sunday Times story is misleadingly designed to make it appear as if it is based on a public attack by me against Lindiwe Mazibuko. This is devoid of truth.
The story has been concocted by twisting selective leaks from the DA’s Federal Executive meeting, in which, inevitably, Lindiwe’s decision to go to Harvard University, and the implications of her decision, were discussed.
At the meeting, I answered questions dispassionately and accurately. We also discussed the problem of selective leaks from the Fedex to advance personal agendas in the DA’s succession race.
Inevitably, these leaks occurred again after this meeting, resulting in an entirely false Sunday Times headline and introductory paragraphs, as well as many additional distortions.
It is a convention not to speak out of Federal Executive. But given that a few members of the Fedex have chosen to ignore this convention, I must set out the facts.
At the meeting, the DA Eastern Cape leader Athol Trollip asked me a series of direct questions around Lindiwe’s decision to leave Parliament, as he is entitled to do.
I responded as follows:
1. I conceded that I 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. And I did not say I “saved” her. I certainly did not say that she would be “nothing without me”, as the Sunday Times headline falsely claims.
2. I said that I had repeatedly taken responsibility for mistakes made in Parliament, in an attempt to protect her and the Parliamentary team. That is also a fact, and no-one in the know would dispute it.
3. I said in response to Athol’s question that, when Lindiwe originally said she wanted to run for Parliamentary Leader at the mid-term, I advised her against it, for reasons that I explained to Fedex. When she was determined to run, I backed her because, in trying to diversify the party, I felt it was important for her to win.
4. At no stage in the Fedex meeting did I launch any “scathing attack” on Lindiwe. I simply put the facts on the table. I said that after she was elected, a “Berlin wall” was erected between her office and mine, and my advice was ignored. Major decisions were made without any discussion, resulting in serious mistakes, for which I then stepped forward and took responsibility. This is also common cause, and evidenced by the record.
Because of this, resistance to her leadership emerged in the Parliamentary caucus, which became deeply divided. It became clear that many people were determined to vote for a change of leadership after the election.
I repeatedly attempted to calm the waters by opening communication channels. This was rejected.
5. During the course of the recent election campaign, I heard rumours that Lindiwe intended to go abroad as soon as the election was over.
6. I didn’t believe this could be true, but because Lindiwe was on sick leave, and because I had been told this information in confidence, I let it pass. I just did not think it was possible.
7. When it turned out in fact to be true, and I was told a few hours before it appeared in the newspaper, the full picture fell into place. It was clear that she faced the prospect of defeat in the election for Parliamentary Leader, and wanted to avoid this. That is quite understandable, but I would have preferred her to have levelled with me, and told me the truth early on.
8. She gave her reasons for going to Harvard to the Fedex only after the announcement appeared in the media, and we agreed to draw a line under it. I wished her well, and spent the day talking to the media defending her decision.
9. Gareth van Onselen then announced he was going to give the “real reasons” for Lindiwe’s departure.
10. I then spoke to Lindiwe telephonically and mentioned that it would do serious damage to her credibility if he gave different reasons from those she had given to Fedex and that she should, at all costs, seek to avoid a contradiction between the reasons she had given and the ones that Gareth van Onselen gave. I noted that, during the previous week, one of Lindiwe’s closest confidantes had been seen briefing Gareth van Onselen.
The subsequent sequence of events speaks for itself, and I set it all out, logically, to the Fedex.
The meeting was a full, open, frank discussion among adults seeking to deal with a complex situation and move forward. It is very rare that political parties can have discussions of this depth and maturity. It is unfortunate that some members of this leadership body are furnishing the media with selective “leaks” in order to advance their own succession agendas, both in the Parliamentary caucus and in the party.
Equally concerning is the way that some media platforms are being abused by so-called journalists and columnists who are embedded in a particular faction of the DA.
It should be of serious concern to journalists and media practitioners that such individuals are using their media “cover” to drive a factional agenda in the DA’s succession battle.
It is time to draw a line in the sand. In the DA we will discuss how best to deal with the issue of individuals driving distorted factional agendas through their allies in the press.
If those media houses that harbour journalists with factional agendas want to protect their own credibility, they will also look at ways to stop their publications from being abused. I will be requesting meetings with the editors of the Business Day and the Sunday Times to discuss the way forward with them.
The DA should be celebrating our best ever electoral performance. I am delighted by our parliamentary team, and know that we are the only party who can offer a real alternative to the ANC. On Wednesday, the fifth democratic parliament will be inaugurated and Members of Parliament will take the oath of office. I know the DA will be ready to repay the faith that 4.1 million South Africans placed in us on the 7th of May.
* This article by DA leader Helen Zille first appeared in SA Today, the weekly online newsletter of the leader of the Democratic Alliance.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.