Cape Town – Former DA leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille on Tuesday stood her ground, saying she should not be suspended for her infamous “colonialism tweets” that have caused ructions in the party.
The Star has established that, the party’s federal executive (Fedex) – which comprises mostly provincial leaders – was to hold a telephonic conference to discuss her fate.
The meeting was expected to pit the supporters of Zille and those of party leader Mmusi Maimane, who believes he was being undermined by the Western Cape premier, against each other.
Maimane’s faction won the first round of the battle when it was decided Zille should be sent a notice to explain why she should not be suspended. On Tuesday, Zille waited until the last minute to file her representations for praising certain aspects of colonialism.
After 5pm, Zille confirmed that she had submitted her representations to the DA’s Fedex.
One of Zille’s close allies told The Star that among the arguments she would make pertained to Maimane’s announcement at the weekend on her suspension.
She was expected to argue that Saturday’s statement proved there was already a predetermined outcome on the matter.
Zille came under fire after posting a tweet on March 16 stating: “For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water, etc.”
Two hours later, Maimane tweeted: “Let’s make this clear: colonialism, like apartheid, was a system of oppression and subjugation. It can never be justified.”
He then referred Zille to the DA’s independent disciplinary body, the Federal Legal Commission (FLC), for investigation.
FLC chairperson advocate Glynnis Breytenbach said the matter was expected to be heard on Friday.
It has sharply divided opinion in the DA, with Maimane’s supporters wanting stern action taken against Zille, who they accuse of undermining Maimane’s authority in the party. Zille, on the other hand, still enjoys significant support.
A DA leader, who did not want to be named as she was not authorised to speak to the media, said last night most black leaders had voted against Zille. But this was not the case in other provinces.
“During the Fedex meeting, the Western Cape and Limpopo voted against Zille’s suspension.”
Gauteng, one of the most influential provinces and the main target for 2019 elections, was expected to lead the charge against Zille.
Another DA insider said many in the Fedex wanted Zille to be expelled. The leader said they believed Zille was undermining Maimane in the same way she did with former parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko.
“Generally, many people don’t want her (Zille) any more. This is the repeat of what she did to Lindiwe,” he said.
Responding to Maimane’s weekend announcement, Zille told The Star: “At the weekend I said proper processes were not followed. We have a constitution that stipulates that proper processes have to be followed.”
However, she would not say whether she would use that as one of her arguments before the FLC.
Maimane told journalists on Saturday that the Fedex had “resolved that Ms Zille be suspended from all party-related activities until such time as her disciplinary hearing is concluded”.
“A notice of suspension will be served on Ms Zille in this regard. This has not been an easy decision. But, as the leader, I must do what is right for the party and South Africa”.
Maimane said it had become evident that he and Zille held fundamentally different attitudes about the mission the party needs to accomplish in 2019.
Zille’s colonialism tweet and her social media commentary “have damaged our standing in the public mind”, Maimane said.
However, a DA leader sympathetic to Zille, who is privy to details, told The Star on Tuesday that the “impact of that mistake” that Zille had been suspended “will be determined by the FLC”.
“I do suspect that the person who is at the centre of this thing, which is the premier, might argue when she appears before the FLC that proper procedures were not followed when it was first announced that she had been suspended, and then given a notice of of intention to suspend her,” the leader said.
DA communications director Matthew Gerstner said last night: “The Fedex will make a decision after her (Zille) submissions have been considered. We will then issue a media statement as and when that happens.”
DA Limpopo leader Jacques Smalle said that alhough he did not share the same sentiments as Zille’s tweets, he believed she should get a fair disciplinary procedure.
“We are a party that believes in the constitution and rules and regulations. Helen should be given the chance to defend herself,” Smalle added.