DA rejects allegations of 'serious rift'

Allegations of a “serious rift” between Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille and the party’s parliamentary leader, Sandra Botha, have been dismissed by the DA.

“As far as we are concerned, the story ... has absolutely no facts or grounds,” DA national media officer Aimee Franklin said on Wednesday.

Business Day newspaper earlier reported DA MPs were “divided” in their support between Zille and Botha, and said discontent was “rumbling within the party’s parliamentary caucus”.

South African Broadcasting Corporation radio on Tuesday referred to a “serious rift” between the pair, with Botha allegedly unhappy over “personal access” to Zille.

The Business Day report also noted both Botha and Zille had vehemently denied the allegations, and quoted caucus chairperson Kraai van Niekerk as saying: “There are always those kind of rumours within politics and there will always be factions.”

Franklin said the DA had not seen fit to issue a statement on a report that was “invalid and unwarranted”.

Accusations of bribery

Meanwhile, the DA has been accused of using bribery to keep its coloured members from crossing the floor to join other parties. It is an allegation it fiercely denies.

In the George municipality in the Western Cape, floor-crossing and job-seeking have created an unstable situation, but on Wednesday, DA councillor Mercia Draghoender accused her own party of paying coloured councillors R15 000 to stay in the party.

“There is,” said Marius Swart, a DA MP from the area, “no truth in that.”

He counter-attacked by saying that Draghoender and the DA mayor of the municipality, Basil Petrus, who both crossed to the DA in the previous floor-crossing period from a small local party, had conspired to persuade a ward councillor to defect. He declined, and the story got out.

Now Petrus is in bad odour with his caucus, who called on him to resign. He refused, and has been temporarily suspended by the federal executive while the matter is investigated. The party is also considering what to do about Draghoender, and has begun by transcribing the tapes of the council meeting at which her allegations were made.

Meanwhile, the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) is getting into the act, calling the accusations made by Draghoender “shocking” and demanding that they be investigated.

Corne Mulder, the Western Cape leader of the FF+, said: “The DA as party voiced strong criticism against the ruling African National Congress because it had been practising chequebook politics. It is therefore the duty of the DA to thoroughly investigate these allegations which were made in the council, and to release a report on the investigation to the public.”—Sapa, I-Net Bridge

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