Democratic Alliance (DA) Federal Executive Chair James Selfe says he was not trying to throw party leader Mmusi Maimane under the bus when he sent out a statement contradicting his announcement that Helen Zille had been suspended.
On Saturday, Maimane announced the party’s Federal Executive had resolved to suspend the former DA leader following her tweet over colonialism.
After the announcement, Zille alerted the party to its constitution, which requires that she first provide reasons as to why she shouldn’t be suspended.
The DA then sent out a statement contradicting Maimane, giving Zille 72 hours to submit her representations.
Selfe says he didn’t throw Maimane under the bus.
“No I wasn’t, and most certainly not. He, in fact, left slightly earlier. The media conference was in a different venue and I didn’t have an opportunity to confer with him about the finer details of this matter.”
Meanwhile, former DA leader Tony Leon says he believes Zille must step down.
“I certainly think she should step down because there’s a clear view of her own executive that they have no confidence whether she’s handled this matter, that must be the outcome of the weekend decision.”
Zille says she’s written a letter to the DA Federal Executive Council explaining why she shouldn’t be suspended from the party and has sent it to her lawyers first for advice.
Zille says she is now awaiting a response from her lawyers first.
“I have written the letter in draft form and sent it to my lawyers and they have to obviously tweak it and advise me.”
But Maimane says Zille has continued to damage the party by justifying her tweets on colonialism.
He says he and Zille hold different views on the direction of the party in the run-up to the 2019 general elections.
“There’s no question that those original tweets, and in fact subsequent justification were some things that I find personally deeply offensive, and I believe they were offensive to many South Africans, and are damaging to the respective project that we’re trying to build.
“If we’re going to achieve in building reconciliation, we need to be able to ensure that when we build our dialogue, that we understand the history and context of certain issues.”
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the African National Congress (ANC) in the Western Cape have called on Zille to be removed as premier.
Cosatu’s Tony Ehrenreich said: “Well it’s clearly inappropriate that you’re suspended in your party but you’re allowed to be a leader in government.”
However, Zille said she cannot be suspended yet.
“Certainly I have experienced them trying to get me to admit guilt, to penalise me in various ways before the hearing.”
At the same time, the ANC and Cosatu say that the DA have no choice but to remove Zille as premier.
Meanwhile, Maimane has reiterates that he doesn't believe Zille is racist, adding that she has contributed to South Africa’s democracy.
However, Zille hit back, saying that her suspension goes against the DA’s constitution which affords her the opportunity to give reasons as to why she should not be suspended.
“I have been charged. I’m happy to go to a hearing but I’m not happy to have to incriminate myself before a hearing even takes place and allow the party to just impose a penalty without going through a proper process, and that’s the issue here..”
The ANC says Zille has a history of racist views - from her comments about professional black people, refugees and her recent comments on colonialism.
And Cosatu's Ehrenreich said Zille should be removed as premier of the Western Cape.
“Government must respond to all of its people and if you’re still holding on to the legacy of apartheid and the lessons of apartheid, you’re not suitable to be in the party but neither are you suitable to be a leader of an important government institution.”
Maimane says Zille’s public utterances in connection with colonialism have damaged the party, while Zille says she rejects colonialism and apartheid but maintains that there were some benefits.
He says while he was also offended by the colonialism tweets he reiterates that he doesn’t believe Zille is racist, adding that she has contributed to South Africa’s democracy.
Maimane says he and Zille have disagreed on the direction the party needs to take in the run up to the 2019 general elections.
“It has become quite fundamentally clear that Premier Zille and I hold different attitudes about the direction the Democratic Alliance needs to accomplish in 2019.”
At the same time, Zille says she has never condoned colonialism or apartheid.
“I reject colonialism, reject apartheid. What I’m saying is that can you repurpose aspects of its legacy, such as, for example, our Constitutional principles.”
Zille’s suspension can now only come into effect should her recommendations be rejected by the disciplinary process.