’We don’t have political purges in the DA,’ says Helen Zille
Cape Town - Democratic Alliance (DA) federal council chairwoman Helen Zille on Monday said there was no purge of black leaders in the official opposition and those who implied one, were in fact belittling the people who had left.
“We don’t have political purges in the DA,” Zille told a media briefing.
“As to my being involved in purging leaders, it is impossible to do that within our rules and our systems. It is absolutely impossible to do that.”
She was responding to questions about the DA’s policy conference at the weekend, where the 140 members of its federal council adopted a blueprint that dropped race as an outright qualifier for redress on economic exclusion.
In a wholesale rejection of existing black empowerment policies, they agreed that there were better, more reliable indicators of disadvantage.
The event was overshadowed by the fallout from the resignation of the party’s Gauteng leader, John Moodey, in a controversy of allegations and counter allegations on the existence of a jobs for sex scandal within the party in the province.
His departure follows that of party leader Mmusi Maimane and Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba last year, and revived suggestions that the party was driving out black leaders resisting the tug of its traditional liberal agenda.
For some commentators, the notion has been underscored by the weekend's confirmation of policy shift that opens the party to accusations of being wilfully "colour-blind" in a country where the poor are overwhelmingly black.
Moodey, in parting, in particular took issue with Zille’s central leadership position and the lack of sanction for her tweet terming black empowerment policies “racist laws”, his words carrying an echo of Maimane's remarks when he resigned.
Zille emphatically denied that she wanted Maimane, a former protégé, out of the party and said she had, along with other leaders, implored him to stay.
"I really genuinely believe we asked Mmusi to stay, we wanted him to stay, the whole federal executive asked him to do so, he made up his mind previously, we only heard about it during the federal executive meeting and it is his choice," Zille said.
"He is an adult and anybody who claims that he is some kind of a victim is actually racist, they are denying him the agency to make a choice. When a white person is charged, we don't talk about a purge or an exodus or anything."
Zille also suggested that the stated reasons from those who had left should not be taken at face value.
“Unfortunately it is the easiest thing in the world and it happens everywhere, that people will play the race card or any other victim card, the gender card or whatever, to cover their real reasons, so that they will turn it into an issue of high principle when actually it is disguising personal interest.
"So the bottom line is this: Mmusi Maimane and everybody else are adult people who can make their own decisions and if they would like to present it in a certain way, it does not automatically make it true.“
The new policy blueprint will inform the DA's manifesto for next year's local government elections.
Policy head Gwen Ngwenya said there was no indication that the policy shift would alienate some voters, and she firmly believed it was the right one regardless.
"Of course it is absolutely worth losing votes on a question of principle. But the question is will we lose votes on the basis of principle? This question gets asks almost as though a case has been established that a large number of South Africans are hostile to this policy and nobody has made that case at all.“
She said research had shown that most people did not feel that current empowerment policies "that use apartheid race classification" were working.
"Most South Africans don't feel that those policies have benefited them and furthermore when asked whether they support policies that will benefit all South Africans and also uplift the poor many people, agree with this."
It was a fallacy that non-racialism and redress were mutually exclusive, Ngwenya added.
African News Agency (ANA)