Daniel Friedman
3 minute read
24 Jul 2018
2:56 pm

Is Helen Zille not nearly as ‘suspended’ as we think she is?

Daniel Friedman

The premier's inclusion on an important decision-making panel has left some of her critics in the party hot under the collar.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille. Picture: ANA

It was reported over the weekend that some within the Democratic Alliance are unhappy with the decision by the party’s federal executive to include Helen Zille in party activities despite her supposedly having been suspended from doing exactly that last year.

She is now part of an important panel that is making recommendations on who in the DA should go to the provincial legislature and to parliament after next year’s elections.

According to a senior DA member quoted in City Press, Zille’s participation “is not permissible because of the suspension imposed on her, including participating in any party activities”.

However, attempts to approach several channels within the DA for clarity on whether this is, in fact, still the case provided more questions than answers.

Zille herself’s responses to our questions were curt.

When asked if allegations that her selection for the panel would violate her suspension were true, Zille simply said “no”.

Similarly, when asked if her suspension barred her from participating in party activities, Zille repeated the same one-word answer, “no.”

However, Zille may simply be relying on the fact that she reached an agreement with the DA last year that she would not participate in party activities, and that she is in fact no longer officially suspended.

Her own critics in the DA may, therefore, be misinformed about the nature of the settlement reached between herself and the federal executive last year.

In the first week of June last year Zille was suspended from DA activities after being charged with bringing the party into disrepute for tweeting that not all aspects of colonialism were negative. The party announced that she was being suspended pending the outcome of her disciplinary hearing.

When Zille then threatened legal action against this, the DA reached a settlement with her in mid-June. Party leader Mmusi Maimane announced the agreement would see her continue her duties as premier but no longer participate in any DA decision-making structures.

Zille agreed to step down from the DA’s federal executive, the federal council and the provincial council.

Asked to clarify whether Zille is now free to be part of an important decision-making panel now, DA spokesperson Solly Malatsi did not make things any clearer.

“The bottom line is that Ms Zille has been nominated and approved to be on the selection panel and she possesses the skills and experience to be part of a team including other capable leaders and experts,” Malatsi said, sidestepping the question of whether Zille was in fact barred by the federal council from participating in party activities altogether.

Malatsi did, however, say that “there is nothing untoward about her being a member of the selection panel”.

Singing her praises, he continued that “her experience as a two-term premier of the Western Cape together with the expertise of other panel memebers will be useful to ensure that the process produces a diverse list of competent candidates to deliver well in government and help grow the party”.

However, in City Press’s report it was revealed that Zille’s presence on the panel is seen by some within the DA as being a threat to diversity.

READ MORE: DA faces internal conflict over inclusion of Zille on selection panel

These voices feel her inclusion might interfere with Maimane’s plans to transform the DA’s presence in parliament, which is currently dominated by white faces.

Spokesperson for Maimane Portia Adams said that only James Selfe, as the party’s federal executive chairperson, could give proper insight into The Citizen’s queries.

When pressed for Maimane’s comment on Zille’s inclusion, Adams asked for questions to be emailed. She responded to detailed questions only by saying: “Please refer your question to the Federal Chairperson, James Selfe.”

Repeated attempts to call Selfe as well as SMSes detailing our questions elicited no response by the time of publication of this piece.

Asked if she was aware of any backlash relating to her selection as part of the panel, Zille said: “No, I have personally only experienced support. But there will always be some grudge-bearers with their own agendas.”

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