The ultimatum comes after the former DA leader was suspended on Wednesday from all party activities by the party’s highest decision-making body – its federal executive (fedex).
Zille is accused of damaging the DA’s image and for bringing the party into disrepute over her tweets praising certain aspects of colonialism.
She is due to appear before the DA’s independent disciplinary body, its federal legal commission (FLC), chaired by advocate Glynnis Breytenbach.
On Thursday, Malema issued an ultimatum to the official opposition to remove Zille as premier or risk losing the metros of Tshwane and Joburg, which the DA runs in a coalition with the EFF.
“They must be warned. You will remain with the Western Cape with Johannesburg and Tshwane gone. We don’t want to associate with a party that protects colonialism and apartheid.
“We are (almost there with regard) to withdrawing our votes in those municipalities if you don’t suspend Helen Zille as premier. We are not going to allow that nonsense to continue,” said Malema at a media briefing in Joburg.
The firebrand leader warned that the DA might not be able to unseat the ANC in the 2019 national elections if it continued on its current trajectory. Malema characterised Zille as the “Zuma of the DA”, saying: “If Helen Zille believed she was treated unfairly, she must resign and take the DA to court to clear her name.
“But to allow her party to deteriorate this much, then she is no different from Zuma. She is compromising the 2019 project of removing the ANC.”
Malema suggested that the DA was pulling the wool over people’s eyes by suspending Zille from party activities and not from her position as the Western Cape premier.
“How is Zille going to get a mandate if she is not attending DA meetings? She is supposed to attend a caucus (meeting).
“Who is Zille representing in the Western Cape Legislature?”
Malema reiterated that DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s authority was being “undermined” in his party.
Contacted for comment, Maimane said the DA was “a party of due process”. “The party’s federal executive decided to suspend Ms Zille pending the outcome of her disciplinary hearing, which starts on June 9. We will await that outcome before a decision on any further action is taken.”
He said if the EFF was happy to “fold their arms” and abstain from voting, “then the people of South Africa must know that it was the EFF who handed power back to the corrupt Gupta-controlled ANC.
“Mr Malema himself has said things in public that I do not agree with and that threaten the project of reconciliation in South Africa.
“Nevertheless, we are working together in the interests of South Africa,” Maimane said.
Former DA leader Tony Leon called on Zille to quit, saying he regarded the events around her as “deeply troubling both for her and the party, unless this matter is shut down sooner, not later”.
“Whatever the demerits of the original tweets and the legal issues Ms Zille has raised, this matter and its continuance is a massive distraction from the core business of the DA.
“I really hope Helen will reflect intensely on the enormity of her previous contribution to the party, and South Africa and not let her legacy or her party be defined by this matter. Sometimes in politics, as in life, you must quit while you are ahead,” Leon said, speaking to The Star from London.
University of the Free State political analyst Dr Joleen Steyn-Kotze said the DA needed to deal with the Zille matter decisively, especially in the build-up to the 2019 elections.
“Only time will tell if there’s a decline in the DA or whether this issue might have been at play. The biggest issue now in the Zille suspension is that the party must start losing the label that it’s the party that perpetuates white interests,” she said.
Steyn-Kotze said the DA needed to deal with the matter soon rather than drag it out like the ANC, which was at its most vulnerable point.
Zille’s supporters in the Fedex, however, said they were hopeful she would get a fair hearing on Friday.
Jacques Small, the DA’s leader in Limpopo, a province known to be a Zille stronghold, said: “We are hopeful that the FLC will have a good outcome that will be fair. But if we are not happy with certain aspects of the outcome, it can be sent back (to the FLC),” he said.
The DA’s Western Cape acting leader, Bonginkosi Madikizela, who is viewed as a staunch Zille supporter, said he would be “naive” if he said the Zille matter would not have an impact on the party.
Repeated attempts to get comment from Zille were unsuccessful.