Suspending Helen Zille from the party only while she remains Western Cape Premier shows that the DA is not serious about dealing with its leaders who still hanker for the past, write BUYILE SANGOLEKHAYA MATIWANE & TSHEPO MOHLOMI
Western Cape premier Helen Zille is a liability not only to the Democratic Alliance, but is also damaging South Africa’s fragile democracy. A damning indictment in any one’s book more so as it came from party leader Mmusi Maimane, clearly intent on ridding the party of the arch fan of colonialism.
Let’s remind ourselves what Maimane said over the weekend:
“It has become quite evident that Helen Zille and I hold fundamentally different attitudes about the mission the Democratic Alliance needs to accomplish in 2019, and the goals and priorities that flow from this.
“Ms Zille’s social media commentary and public utterances in connection with colonialism undermine our reconciliation project. There is no question that Ms Zille’s original tweets and subsequent justifications have damaged our standing in the public mind.
“We live in a fragile democracy which means our public representatives must, at all times, be sensitive to the legitimate anger that people still feel about our past and its legacy.
“As the Leader of the party, it is up to me to rebuild public trust. In this regard, I asked Ms Zille to tender an unreserved apology to both South Africa and the DA for the damage she has done. Unfortunately, she declined.
“In this period, Ms Zille has continued to damage the party with various pieces of communication that seek to undermine what we are trying to achieve.”
But Zille will not budge. Neither her personality nor her politics will allow her to take instructions from the party leader, a black person.
Her sense of privilege runs deep. But that is what purveyors, benefactors and supporters of colonialism believe – that they are entitled to not only a sense of superiority but that they are by default the masters of all they survey.
Her blatant disregard for a directive from her leader as well as her party’s highest decision-making body displays a magnificent sense that she feels that she is untouchable and bigger than the party.
She is clearly unfit to continue as premier of the Western Cape and the party’s assertion that it has no jurisdiction here is laughable.
Her tweets are as recklessly spectacular and akin to that other small-minded and even smaller-handed politician known as the leader of the free world.
If the party suspends her, she ceases to represent any party, so how can she remain in her post as a Premier in a DA-led administration?
Analysts quoted in some of Independent Media’s Sunday newspapers expressed their astonishment at Zille’s disrespect
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga is quoted as saying that “Zille had shown no remorse following the tweets and no respect for the leadership of the party by continuing to take to the public domain her views, hence the DA needed to take a clear position on her”.
He also questioned the DA’s decision not to strip Zille of the Western Cape premiership.
“If they are suspending her from the party, why are they not extending that to her leadership role in the Western Cape government. Which is bigger than the other? That’s a twist we find hard to understand,” Mathekga is quoted as saying.
He further stated that in his opinion “it had become clear that Zille had become a liability to the party and thought of herself as being “larger than the DA”.
“The sooner they deal with the issue of the tweets the better. They have to expedite it. She will continue to divide the party even if they decide to keep her because there will always be a cost borne and I think a better cost they can live with is if they part ways.”
Zille remains unbowed though, declaring that the DA “has no right to suspend me”.
Zille’s open defiance of Maimane and of the DA’s Federal Executive will not sit well with the black leadership within the DA, who have historically been pitted against the neo-liberal power base within the party of which Zille is emphatically a key part of.
Her history of a blatantly anti-poor agenda is a matter of public record. Her utterances about people from the Eastern Cape coming to settle in the Western Cape, calling them refugees, is an example of her skewered world-view.
Unashamedly labelling fellow countrymen as “economic refugees” smacks of colonial masterdom at its finest.
And her ruthlessness in dealing with those who either oppose her view or try to be their own person within the party – ask former DA leader Lindiwe Mazibuko of the wrath she endured when she attempted to cut the Zille apron strings.
Black party insiders have for a while now decried them being undermined by a largely white establishment cabal within the DA that continues to call the shots and whose agenda has not changed since before democracy.
And Zille is the nexus around which this power base continues to foment their neoliberal ideologies.
Time and time again her administration has showed its anti-poor hand – the latest example being the Tafelberg school site controversy. She must go. Her leader wants her to go, and those concerned about the damage she is doing to the party’s public image want her to go.
All indications are that she won’t.
A party insider told the City Press newspaper:
“The suspension is a warning shot to her that we are still in control and Mmusi [Maimane, DA leader] is tired of being seen as not taking action when it [was] the processes and Helen herself holding him back from doing what he wants to do, which is to fire her.”
The DA is no moral authority on how this country should be run. They still harbour colonial apologists and have a large number of individuals that still harbour views that are anti the progress of this nation. Helen Zille is just a small example of the greater thinking within the DA that espouses her views and her opinions about the state and some of its people.
“There is no difference between what she is doing to the DA and what [President Jacob] Zuma is doing to [the ANC] at this stage.”
If Maimane is to fulfil the hype around his so-called Obama-nesque potential he has to stand firm and move on Zille.
If he fails, it will continue to reinforce the belief that the DA is not a party serious about wanting to change the lives of all South Africans, but one which continues to pay lip-service to democratic ideals while at the same time continues to operate a furtive agenda with narrowed interests.
The move to suspend Zille only in the party shows us truly what the DA stands for. A member of any party that is suspended in the party may not continue serving where they are deployed. The body politic of our country dictates that the organisation is the centre of power and it is the one with power more than individuals.
Suspending Zille only in the party shows the total lack of commitment and enthusiasm in the DA to decisively deal with transforming the state and getting rid of the rot in the DA. This shows that the black voice and the language of transformation are foreign to DA.
The face of government should be a reflection of what the deploying structures stand for. In this instance, what does the face of government in the Western Cape reflect? Keeping Zille in government should be enough proof that the DA is indeed not condemning Zille, it is just engaging in a PR exercise. It is trying by all means to protect its image. But we are not fooled for we know what they really stand for.
Matiwane is provincial chairperson of SASCO in the Western Cape & Mohlomi is provincial secretary of SASCO in the North West province