Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille has come out strong on Twitter saying that reports on comments she made about Lindiwe Mazibuko were distorted, and that she never said what was reported to the media.
The Sunday Times reported that Zille told the DA’s federal executive meeting in Johannesburg on Friday that she “made” Mazibuko, and then went on to attack her record as parliamentary leader. She also said she “saved” Mazibuko a few times.
Zille reportedly said Mazibuko was nothing without her, and painted a picture of her as incompetent and out of her depth, saying she promoted, defended and protected her.
The report stated Zille opposed Mazibuko’s parliamentary leader candidacy against Eastern Cape leader Athol Trollip, but supported Mazibuko once she declared her candidacy because she could not risk a black candidate losing.
The report caused an an outcry on Twitter.
Zille replied to some tweeters individually.
But a few still refused to budge.
‘Blessing in disguise’
Mazibuko pulled out of the opposition party’s list of candidates after the May 7 elections to pursue further education at Harvard University, and DA insiders told the Mail & Guardian last week that Mazibuko resignation was a “blessing in disguise” that saved the party from a bruising battle for the position of a parliamentary leader.
“It was going to be a nasty war and cause deep divisions in the party,” said a DA staff member at the time with intimate knowledge of developments.
It was widely expected that Mazibuko, the DA’s parliamentary leader since 2011, would be challenged for this position by Mmusi Maimane, the party’s national spokesperson who has become Zille’s new favourite.
A DA MP said Mazibuko had been unhappy for some time since she differed with party leader Helen Zille on the party’s position on the Employment Equity Amendment Bill, and that she was “emotionally drained”.
Mazibuko openly differed with Zille on the policy, and stated this in an email she forwarded to several DA strategists.
The MP said the DA caucus’s support of the Employment Equity Amendment Bill, under Mazibuko’s watch, was used “to say there is no leadership in the caucus”.
“It was not going to be easy to remove her [Mazibuko] just like that, not in the middle of the term and before the elections. But they tried to weaken her,” said the MP.
The debate around employment equity gave prominence to the DA’s black caucus, a loose formation of the party’s senior black leaders who also held a different view from Zille’s on employment equity.
Maimane was not part of that group and largely kept away from its meetings, according to DA sources. – Additional reporting by Andisiwe Makinana