/ 6 July 2018

DA backs Max’s move as Madikizela fumes

Lennit Max says he has repeatedly offered the DA the benefit of his crime-fighting expertise
Lennit Max, who is also the former provincial police commissioner, was appointed as special adviser to Police Minister Bheki Cele in July. (David Harrison/M&G)

Democratic Alliance Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela’s call for Lennit Max to resign after Max became special adviser to the police minister, Bheki Cele, has been given short shrift by the party’s national leadership.

Max, a former police officer, was offered a 12-month contract to join the national government as a special adviser to the minister.

He announced on Monday that he had resigned from the Western Cape legislature to take up the job, but Madikizela reacted by saying Max had “disowned” the party and encouraged him to resign from the DA.

But Madikizela seems to hold a different view to his own party. Solly Malatsi, the DA’s national spokesperson, said that the party supported Max’s right to seek employment where he desired without being forced to resign as a DA member.

“The national leadership is of the view that, until he has pronounced otherwise on his membership, Mr Max has the right to be employed by whoever he wishes,” Malatsi said.

“He is free to be employed by anybody and that is the business between himself and his employer.”

Madikizela, however, accused Max of betraying the DA. The Western Cape DA leader’s reaction came after he heard Max telling journalists on Monday that he is not a member of the ANC “yet”, which Madikizela interpreted as his intention to resign from the party. He said that Max’s repetition of the Thuma Mina slogan, the ANC’s election tagline, and his refusal to notify the party about his new deployment was seen as disloyalty.

“It’s actually mind-boggling,” Max told the Mail & Guardian on Thursday. “I would expect them to say what a feather [it is] in the cap for the DA that a DA member is now being asked to assist national government in the fight against crime. I don’t know what is their motive.”

Max also denied having any intention of joining the ANC.

There’s no love lost between Max and Madikizela. Earlier this year, the two went head to head in the race to become provincial leader. At the time Madikizela, a close ally of Premier Helen Zille, accused Max of trying to be “a saviour”.

Max worked himself up to provincial police commissioner and MEC for community safety after a lengthy career as a police officer.

His value to the national government is speculated to be grounded in his expertise in the drug trade and gangsterism. But he has said that he did not have the support of his party when he tried to make a difference in provincial policing.

“The decision to join national government was also born from my frustrations for not being allowed to use my skills and expertise to curb crime in the Western Cape,” Max, who chaired the committee on sport and culture in the legislature, said.

“I, as a trained police officer, could no longer sit by idle and supervising the department of cultural affairs and sport by visiting archives, libraries and watching opera while our women and children are slaughtered by gangsters on the Cape Flats.

“I approached the leadership, offered my skills, but it was declined by Helen Zille, Mmusi Maimane and James Selfe. This not only frustrated but angered me,” he said.

Max is not the first DA card-carrying member to be employed by the national government under the ANC. Former DA leader Tony Leon served as the South African ambassador to Argentina under the ANC-led government from 2009 to 2012 while still being a member of the DA.

But Madikizela has denied that he reacted hypocritically to Max’s new appointment, saying: “Leon never disowned the party.”

The focus on Max follows a string of instances of clumsy party infighting, from George to Cape Town.

Madikizela’s hostile line on Max echoes the party’s recent attempt to sack Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille, who was accused of contravening the DA rules for allegedly stating her intention to resign from the party on radio.

Knysna mayor Mark Willemse and George mayor Melvin Naik are also facing the axe for allegedly contravening the DA’s rule book.

The ANC, meanwhile, has capitalised on the spat between Max and the DA, saying it is proof that DA leaders have failed to take crime seriously in the Western Cape.

Max remains a member of the DA.