File photo: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA).

Helen Zille has dismissed as groundless criticism that the ousting of the DA in the City of Johannesburg was a culmination of the party’s decline that started when she returned to take over as federal chair.

In a brief response given to Independent Media on Thursday, Zille said while she was not commenting to the media about the matter (loss of Johannesburg to ANC), the assertions are wrong. She stressed that she has done more to diversify the party more than any other person.

“I am not commenting to the media because it is not my role except to say one thing: no one has done more to diversify the DA than I have. It is totally wrong to suggest that anyone voted for me because they want to reverse that process. We are all deeply committed to diversity and inclusion, no one more than I am,” Zille said. 

When Zille dumped the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) in October, her critics said the move was to ensure that the party does not slide into being a mass based party as it was becoming under Mmusi Maimane, but remains a true liberal party placing interests of some minorities in the forefront. 

In the Johannesburg vote on Wednesday one DA councillor and other smaller parties like the IFP, voted for ANC’s Geoff Makhubo to take over mayor. 

According to Durban-based independent political analyst Thabani Khumalo this can be seen as a vote of no confidence on the DA, Zille and DA’s interim national leader John Steenhuisen.  

Khumalo said the decision of the former coalition partners can be interpreted in two ways. First, they have lost confidence in the DA and the direction it is taking and second, the ANC promised them something in return for their support. 

“Back in 2016, the DA was clear that it wanted to unite all the opposition parties against the ANC, hence it was easy for them to work together in hung municipalities. The direction of the DA was clear back then. However, it’s not clear where the DA now with Zille (as federal chairperson) is going and this may have made the other parties to work with the ANC since they know it very well,” Khumalo said.

On the other hand, Khumalo said the former coalition partners dumped the DA because the ANC promised them something during negotiations ahead of the vote. 

“There are promises made during negotiations and maybe the ANC promised them something. The composition of Makhubo’s mayoral committee will give us a clear picture of what the ANC promised these parties in order to vote with them.”

Political Bureau