The DA and the Institute for Race Relations are at loggerheads over an article calling for Western Cape Premier Alan Winde to become the next DA leader. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Cape Town - Democratic Alliance chief whip John Steenhuisen on Tuesday lambasted the Institute for Race Relations for weighing in on reported tensions within the official opposition party around its leadership.

In a scathing statement, Steenhuisen told the IRR it should give up the pretense of being a non-profit organisation and openly enter politics after it endorsed an article that argued Alan Winde, the current premier of the Western Cape, should replace embattled Mmusi Maimane as DA leader.

The article, in the Daily Friend, argued that Winde would be a game changer for the party because choosing a white man as party leader would unite it in its "unashamedly non racial purpose".

The IRR issued a number of tweets reprising sentences from the article, to which it added the hashtag #JointheIRR.

"'The seeds of the DA’s recovery has been planted by a white man in the Western Cape.’ Alan Winde should be the new leader of the DA. Stand with the IRR at #JoinTheIRR or SMS your name to 32823 (SMSes cost R1, Ts and Cs apply)," read one of the tweets.

In a reply on Twitter, Steenhuisen called this "low politics".

He then issued a statement in which he said the IRR has for some time displayed an obsession with the DA's internal political and ideological dialogue and it has grown in the past year or two.

"Given that the IRR has such strong opinions about the DA’s leadership and internal debates, they are more than welcome to become members of the DA and exercise their membership rights to participate in the DA’s next congress, at which the party’s leadership will be elected, instead of sniping from the side-lines and shamelessly piggy-backing their fundraising appeals on to it," he wrote.

"Given their obsession with the DA, the other option for the IRR is to form their own political party and contest elections in its own name - rather than attempt to piggy-back on the DA’s successes in government, as it is currently trying to do while fronting as an NPO."

The DA is reportedly riven with tension over the continued leadership of Maimane, who was famously denounced by IRR head of politics and governance Gareth van Onselen as a "hollow man" before he succeeded Helen Zille as leader of the DA in May 2015.

Van Onselen formerly worked for the DA on policy and communications matters. Zille earlier this year joined the IRR as a senior policy fellow after her term as Western Cape premier ended.

Last month, two separate news stories emerged surrounding Maimane that his detractors believe cast doubt on his integrity.

One centred on his declaration to Parliament that he owned a property in the leafy Cape Town suburb of Claremont, then clarified that he actually rented it from a businessman and friend. The second concerned his use of a hire car sponsored by disgraced former Steinhoff boss Markus Jooste.

A party spokesman has said it was returned after the Steinhoff scandal broke.

African News Agency/ANA