DA leader John Steenhuisen on Monday reacted to his predecessor’s criticism of his remarks that the DA is keen to work with “reformists” in the ANC like President Cyril Ramaphosa, saying his comments were nothing new and, in fact, former leader Mmusi Maimane had made similar remarks in the past.
Maimane, who now heads the One SA Movement after he resigned from the DA in October 2019, said Steenhuisen’s comments in the Sunday Times were a sign the party was not confident of unseating the ANC in 2024.
Steenhuisen said in an interview with SABC News Maimane might be suffering from a “slight case of amnesia”.
“I don’t think that’s true and if anybody takes one of Mr Maimane’s speeches over the course of the last term of his leadership, they would see that he said exactly the same thing and I quote: ‘Maimane extended a hand of friendship to the ANC leaders speaking against the state of their party, adding that the DA was open to working with them in the future in a new realigned political landscape’,” Steenhuisen said.
He said there was absolutely no difference between what he said about the ANC and Maimane’s comments about the realignment of SA politics.
“I think they may be a slight case of amnesia that has set in there but it’s certainly nothing different that has been said by both Mr Maimane and the previous leader Mrs [Helen] Zille in taking about the realignment of SA politics.”
Steenhuisen also backtracked on the Sunday Times story, saying he had never said the DA would enter into a coalition with the ANC.
He said the DA’s primary focus was to reduce the ANC majority to under 50% at the polls in order to create a new “rational centre in South African politics” to fight radical socialism and policies the party believes would cripple the economy further.
“It is an absolute distortion that I said we would be willing to enter into a coalition with the ANC. I made a full recording of that interview… it’s about the reformists coming together – from whatever parties they may be in – to form that rational centre to be able to drive the reform agenda that South Africa needs to get onto a new trajectory of hope and prosperity,” Steenhuisen said.
Meanwhile, a legal battle is also looming between Action SA leader Herman Mashaba and Steenhuisen.
This was flagged by Mashaba on Sunday following the Sunday Times report in which Steenhuisen accused Mashaba of “dancing to the tune” of the EFF during his tenure as the mayor of Johannesburg. Steenhuisen accused Mashaba of failing the DA while he was Johannesburg mayor.
“The mayor naively at times felt that if he just threw a few scraps to the crocodile it would be happy,” Steenhuisen told the newspaper.
Mashaba labelled the allegations at libelous.
“His dishonesty is proven by his amnesia that it was he, and not I, who was one of the many who voted for the arrangements which depended on the EFF in the coalition. His remarks are libelous and our legal team will address this with him directly,” Mashaba tweeted on Sunday.
Additional reporting by Siyanda Ndlovu.