Western Cape Premier Helen Zille File picture: Armand Hough/ANA Pictures
Cape Town - The DA’s suspension of its former leader, Helen Zille, over her colonial tweets has plunged the party into a tailspin over her future as Western Cape premier.

On Wednesday, the official opposition party’s coalition partner in the crucial Gauteng metros, the EFF, led the charge in rejecting the decision to suspend her only from party activities and not from her position.

The party’s top brass on Wednesday passed the decision on her fate amid mounting pressure that Zille should relinquish her powerful post in the only province the party governs.

On Wednesday night, political analysts also warned of more damage to the party in the run-up to 2019 if the DA does not dislodge Zille. This as her supporters in the Western Cape reaffirmed their support for her.

The EFF said the suspension only from party activities was “playful” and showed that the DA cared more about itself than South Africans. “If her disciplinary process means it is important that she does not participate in DA activities, why is this not also the case with government?” the EFF asked.

“What makes DA decision-making structures more important than the people’s government structures that she presides over as premier?”

Zille had until Tuesday to explain to the party’s federal executive (Fedex) why she should not be suspended. Fedex chairperson James Selfe said it was decided by an “overwhelming majority” to officially suspend Zille until such time as her disciplinary hearing, starting on Thursday, was concluded.

The Fedex agreed that Zille’s tweets on colonialism “breaks down public trust, stunts South Africa’s reconciliation imperative, and undermines our political project”.

However, in her submissions to the Fedex, Zille remained defiant, saying it was clear from DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s announcement on her suspension on Saturday that he had prejudged her.“This initial material failure to comply with due process has serious implications. The leader (Maimane) has, in a public statement, made it clear that he wants me suspended and has already decided to suspend me,” she said.

“This puts the Fedex in an impossible position to make an objective determination, whatever the merits of my arguments against suspension. In any event, the Fedex has equally compromised itself on this decision,” Zille said in her submission.

When contacted for comment on Wednesday night, Selfe would not be drawn on the finer details of the decision to suspend Zille.

Asked what would happen to Zille as she was a DA deployee in the Western Cape government, Selfe said: “We don’t do deployments. We nominate a person we want to serve as a premier and the voters of Western Cape elect the person. That is why her (Zille) position as premier remains unaffected.”

Selfe referred questions to the Federal Legal Commission (FLC) in the event she is found guilty of bringing the party into disrepute.

The FLC, although independent, recommends to the Fedex and can have their decisions overturned, as was the case with former youth leader Mbali Ntuli. The body found there was no case against her but the Fedex proceeded to charge Ntuli over liking a Facebook post that called Zille a racist.

DA Western Cape acting leader Bonginkosi Madikizela, a staunch Zille supporter, said: “She’s still a member of the party, the premier and still our caucus leader. She is only suspended from partaking in party activities such as attending meetings.”

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said the DA was being inconsistent.

“In our electoral system, we don’t directly vote for the premier. People voted for the DA and she carries the party’s mandate,” he said.

“If the party says she is suspended from party political duties but stays on as premier, what does that mean? Does that mean she is not good enough for the party but good for the country? Are they then saying they are leaving it to members of the legislature to pass a motion of no confidence against her?”

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University political science lecturer and PhD candidate Ongama Mtimka said while Zille may be right about raising questions about the due process followed “that shows she cares more about her survival than she does about the party and its prospects going into 2019”.

Meanwhile, Mogale City DA mayor Michael Holenstein was removed after a secret ballot on a motion of no confidence tabled against him by ANC councillors on Wednesday.

The ANC lost control of the West Rand municipality following the elections last year.

It had reportedly accused the DA of being hypocrites for its earlier failed attempt to oppose the no confidence motion against Holenstein through secret ballot.

The DA wants the motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma in Parliament to be conducted through a secret ballot.

Political and Development Hub