Mmusi Maimane keeps his cool as ethics issue hots up

Maimane says the ANC's criticism of him is hypocritical, given that its own members don't declare donations. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Maimane says the ANC's criticism of him is hypocritical, given that its own members don't declare donations. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane has, in recent weeks, been putting out fires, from party member Dianne Kohler Barnard’s disciplinary matter to himself failing to declare donations he received during his campaign for the party leadership. 

The decision to withdraw Kohler Barnard’s membership appears to have divided the DA. Are you worried this will have a negative effect on the party ahead of 2016’s municipal elections?
There is no division in the DA along factional lines. The DA is in a good space going into next year’s local government elections, with our respective mayoral campaigns in Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane generating great momentum.

Former DA leader Tony Leon has described the federal executive’s decision to withdraw Kohler Barnard’s membership as unjust.
Mr Leon is entitled to his opinion.

Is there a reason the recommendations by the party’s federal legal commission – that Kohler Barnard pay a fine, attend a course on using social media and be demoted as spokesperson on police – were not accepted?
In terms of the party’s constitution, the federal executive has the ability to increase, decrease or accept any sanction recommended by the federal legal commission.
Aggravating and mitigating circumstances were presented to and discussed by the federal executive. On the basis of the arguments presented, the executive voted to increase the proposed sanction to terminate her membership.

Some DA members have argued that your apology after breaking Parliament’s ethics code and misleading it by not declaring donations was similar to Kohler Barnard’s apology after she reposted a Facebook message praising apartheid president PW Botha’s rule.
The two matters are inherently different. I have not broken the ethics code, nor have I misled Parliament. My office made a grave administrative error, which was swiftly corrected.

I have submitted the details and amounts of all donations received by my campaign manager for my internal campaign. I await with great interest the submission of details relating to donations received by ANC MPs who contested internal elections.

What’s your reaction to the ANC’s plan to press charges against you and its call for Parliament’s ethics committee to take a harsh decision against you, as it did with former communications minister Dina Pule?
I believe it to be hypocrisy of the highest order for the ANC to pursue this complaint when so many of their MPs have fallen foul of the ethics code. In 2012, 67 ANC MPs missed the declaration deadline. In 2013, 47 ANC MPs failed to declare their interests on time. And this year, six ANC MPs failed to declare their interests on time. Six ANC MPs failed to declare donations they received for their campaigns for various elective conferences this year.

In addition, none of the four MPs that ran for leadership positions at the ANC’s national conference in 2012 – Kgalema Motlanthe, Tokyo Sexwale, Paul Mashatile and Fikile Mbalula – declared any campaign contributions. In stark contrast, I have been completely open in disclosing the amount of donations received and the names of the donors to the registrar of interests.

Would you resign if the ethics committee finds you guilty?
I have disclosed the donations received. The late submission was due to a regrettable oversight by my office.

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004. Read more from Matuma Letsoalo

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