Cape Town – Internal divisions in the DA could harm the party at the local government elections in 2021 if the flames of dissent are not doused quickly.
The party is beset by internal jockeying for positions with party leader Mmusi Maimane’s position at risk, Helen Zille and Athol Trollip vying for the position of federal chairperson and its Cape Town Metro caucus at each other’s throats.
Firstly there was an attempt to get rid of caucus leader Grant Twigg, a motion which he survived, and on Monday a motion to get rid of deputy caucus leader JP Smith failed when it was withdrawn.
Amanda Gouws from the political science department at Stellenbosch University said the public spats were becoming a mess for the party.
“The DA is struggling with a leadership problem and a race problem. And the party has shown itself that it is not integrated and that there is no space for black leadership.”
It comes after a motion of no confidence against mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith was withdrawn yesterday and has prompted the party to look into other mechanisms to deal with internal conflicts.
Political analyst Sanusha Naidoo said: “You cannot ignore the fact that the DA is imploding and they cannot cover it up. But now the battle lines have been drawn in a destructive way and it leaves questions for the party’s credibility about its stance on transformation. And what we are seeing is certain members that want to take the party back.”
On the withdrawal of the motion against Smith, DA provincial leader Bonginkosi Madikizela said: “We as leadership advised against it and suggested other mechanisms to deal with issues raised. Fortunately, those people who tabled (the motion) listened.”
He said that tabling a motion was not a desirable way to resolve issues. “I said let us rather find another way of dealing with the issues raised. I spoke to the councillors at great length.”
The motion was brought forward by councillors Courtney van Wyk and Steven Vuba.
In their submission, they accused Smith of being at the forefront of “actively driving disunity” within the party. The submission paints a picture of Smith as a delinquent, stating that after the independent report of the subcommittee established to inquire into tensions within the City, known as the “Steenhuisen Report” and adopted by the party’s federal executive, Smith was placed at the centre of “heightened tensions and disunity within the caucus”.
Former Mayco member for transport and urban development and now GOOD party member Brett Herron said that what played out in council yesterday demonstrated how “some of the animals are more equal than others”.
“How the members of that caucus, and the party, sit in silence and accommodate the obvious double standards is beyond me. Their right to exercise their judgment and elect or remove their own leaders is arbitrarily removed. But as with every contradiction and failure of fairness when it came to Patricia de Lille they sit silent – allowing their dignity and integrity to be trampled on.
"The hypocrisy is even worse – during the war (Smith) started in that caucus he promised that the caucus would have much more power over decisions and election of councillors into positions. Now he has run to his cabal to protect him from the caucus using the powers he promised them in return for their support of him,” Herron said.
Smith said he was not allowed to speak to the media on “internal caucus” issues.