Johannesburg - Former DA leader Helen Zille’s comments that she promoted black leaders during her tenure have caused consternation in the official opposition, fresh from a poor showing at the recent provincial and national elections.
On Tuesday, some of the party’s top black leaders blasted her, with one provincial leader saying her comments were “disgusting”.
At the weekend, Zille, also a former Western Cape premier, opined that one of her greatest failures was her inability to prevent the DA from entering the “ANC/EFF’s race narrative arena”.
Zille said she had mistakenly tried satisfying her ANC opponents in pursuing inclusivity while the governing party’s understanding of diversity meant “prioritising a person’s biological characteristics above other attributes necessary for value and accomplishment”.
Free State DA provincial leader Patricia Kopane slammed Zille for claiming credit for the growth of black leadership within the party under her tenure.
“I was never promoted by her or anybody in the DA. Before I became the leader in 2012, I campaigned and travelled everywhere before the congress where I was elected.
“As black people in the party we are where we are because we worked hard, not because someone or some people promoted us.
“If Helen Zille takes the credit for the black leadership in the DA, that’s her own thing,” she said.
Northern Cape provincial leader Andrew Louw said Zille’s remarks disgusted him. “I have written a response, which I will send you because what she said was disgusting,” he said.
Louw, who was designated by Zille to his current post in 2009 following the resignation of then leader Chris Liebenberg, had not sent the document by the time of going to print.
Zille, who led the DA from 2007 to 2015 before being succeeded by Mmusi Maimane, has been at loggerheads with the party over her controversial remarks, including that colonialism was not all bad, which saw her suspended from party activities.
In her opinion piece, Zille said diversity was crucial for the DA when she took over to cross boundaries of a divided South Africa and rid it of its “white party” tag.
“Eventually, I concluded that, if the party was led by a black person, and backed by a significant majority of elected black provincial leaders, we would finally rid ourselves of this tag,” she said.
Zille, who credited herself for increasing the DA’s electoral support by more than 100%, said her effort had not helped the party, adding that its strategists had resorted to crush her publicly as the last resort to rid the DA of its “white image” after she refused to resign as premier.
Kopane said the party’s black leaders had not failed to attract votes in the recent elections, during which the party suffered a decline for the first time since 1994, losing five seats.
“The ANC was the biggest loser because they lost 19 seats. Maimane worked more than any other DA leader in these elections.
“Helen is not going to deter us and her views are not going to divide us as the party. We don’t have to entertain petty things,” Kopane said.
DA caucus chairperson in the Gauteng legislature Makashule Gana, who became Youth Federal Leader in 2010, said he no longer had time for Zille.
“I do not have time for her. I am busy building the DA and we have constituencies to win,”Gana said.
Gauteng and Eastern Cape provincial leaders, John Moodey and Nqaba Bhanga, refused to comment on Zille’s remarks.
Moodey said: “She’s no longer the leader of the DA. She’s just an ordinary member and I have nothing to say about her.”
Zille, Maimane and the DA’s national spokesperson Solly Malatsi could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.