AFTER a week of turmoil between DA factions, former leader and Western Cape premier Helen Zille was on Wednesday temporarily suspended from the party pending the outcome of her disciplinary hearing.
The suspension came after days of political battles between Zille and DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s groups, for the soul and future direction of the official opposition party.
The party’s Federal Executive Chairperson James Selfe announced that an overwhelming number supported the notion of suspension.
“This morning (Wednesday), the Federal Executive (FedEx) of the Democratic Alliance (DA) decided by an overwhelming majority to officially suspend Ms Helen Zille from party related activities until such time as her disciplinary hearing is concluded. The suspension is effective immediately,” said Selfe.
A defiant Zille hit back and argued that the party had already made its mind up about her suspension before she could provide her reasons.
She submitted a nine page report containing 45 reasons.
“After consideration of Ms Zille’s representations, the FedEx has today taken an official decision to suspend her. The Federal Executive agreed that Ms Zille’s social media commentary and public utterances in connection with colonialism breaks down public trust, stunts South Africa’s reconciliation imperative, and undermines our political 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,” Selfe added.
Zille had tweeted that colonialism had laid the foundation for the judiciary and that the country had colonialism to thank for its world class infrastructure.
Selfe said as a former leader and as a member of the Federal Executive, Zille has a special duty of care to protect the party’s interests and promote the party’s mission, which is to build a non-racial, inclusive democracy.
“Ms Zille’s statements are at variance with this. Mr Maimane has pursued every avenue to resolve this matter. All of his previous good faith attempts have thus far been to no avail. Mr Maimane has asked Ms Zille to issue a full apology for her actions and has sought to find a solution to this matter. In every effort he has made, Ms Zille has refused to take the appropriate action necessary to resolve this unfortunate and damaging matter. Her ongoing communication on this issue has continued to cause damage to the party,” said Selfe.
Zille will however keep her position as Western Cape premier. Selfe said there is a separation between party and state, and this suspension does not affect her government role.
“This matter deals with her standing within the DA,” he said
The suspension follows the past weekend’s confusion when Maimane prematurely announced that Zille had been suspended pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing. Hours later, however, the DA back-tracked saying the Western Cape premier had in effect been given three days to provide reasons why she should be suspended.
“We have given Helen Zille the opportunity to indicate to us why she should not be suspended. The notice calling for representations on suspension has already been served and requires any representations to be made within 72 hours,” said the DA in a statement on January 3.
This came after Zille had publicly challenged her suspension on procedural grounds.
In a statement hours after Maimane announced her suspension, Zille had insisted that the Federal Executive’s decision to suspend her did not comply with Section 3.6.3 of the party’s constitution.
She had dismissed Maimane’s statement that she had refused to apologise.
“What i have not agreed to do is plead guilty to charges of misconduct which i never committed. Because the DA stands for freedom and fairness, we need to follow due process of law, especially when this is initiated by the leader himself,” Zille wrote.
“I have not accepted that the DA has a right to find me guilty and penalise me before the hearing even takes place. I cannot be bullied into resigning or incriminating myself.”