/ 3 November 2023

Cachalia vows more ‘truth to power’ after DA demotion 

Ghaleb Cachalia
Ghaleb Cachalia. Photo: @GhalebCachalia

Former Democratic Alliance (DA) public enterprises representative Ghaleb Cachalia says he will not allow his demotion by party leader John Steenhuisen over his public comments criticising the genocide in Gaza to stop him from speaking truth to power.

Cachalia was moved to the back benches by Steenhuisen on Thursday over his failure to toe the pro-Israel party line over the Palestine conflict — and maintain silence over the bombing of Gaza by Israel in response to 7 October attacks on civilians by Hamas.

More than 9 000 Palestinans have been killed by Israeli bombing since the attacks, in which 1 400 Israelis were killed and about 240 hostages were abducted and taken to Gaza.

Cachalia said in a statement on Friday morning that despite his demotion, he remained “loyal to the values and principles of the DA”, which had “always prompted and guided me to speak up against abuse”.

Cachalia said it was Steenhuisen’s “prerogative” to “hire and fire members of his “cabinet” and that he would now serve the party and the country from its backbenches.

Cachalia, the son of ANC stalwarts Amina and Yusuf Cachalia, said he had become involved in politics “to remove [former president Jacob] Zuma and followed through to eradicate his legacy of ineptitude and malfeasance which persists in the current ANC”.

“I will persevere in this regard in the run-up to the election next year.”

Cachalia said he would continue to “keep a watchful eye on human rights abuses here and globally and will always speak truth to power”.

A letter from Steenhuisen to Cachalia removing him from his position over his social media comments calling the bombings an act of genocide was leaked to the media on Thursday.

Cachalia said it was “unusual” that the letter went into the kind of detail it did — and that it had been leaked to the media within an hour of Steenhuisen sending it to him.

“I contest his version of facts. That said, I have no wish to enter into a ‘he said, she said’ engagement on this,” Cachalia said.

In the letter of dismissal, Steenhuisen said Cachalia had failed to abide by the caucus decision on 19 October, which had affirmed support for Israel and condemned the “terrorist” attacks by Hamas.

Cachalia  had also failed to respect the decision that caucus members would not comment on the Palestine conflict at this time with his social media comment that “I will not be silenced. Israel is committing Genocide. Full BLOODY stop.”

“When engaged about your assertion that you were being ‘silenced’, as well as your disregard for a caucus decision that you had substantially contributed to less than two weeks earlier, you remained defiant. It subsequently emerged that you also engaged

the media on this matter in a way that further fuels division,” Steenhuisen said.

Steenhuisen said Cachalia’s defiance was a “display of remarkable selfishness” that showed disregard for the caucus decision and was “deeply disrespectful” to his colleagues”.

Cachalia’s conduct, “in willful violation of a caucus decision, is deeply undermining of my leadership” and needed to be met by “appropriate action” to show that Steenhuisen, unlike President Cyril Ramaphosa, would hold members of his cabinet accountable.

“It is the responsibility of all of us, including myself, to act in the best interests of the party in the lead up to the most important election in our history,” Steenhuisen said. 

“Consequently, I hereby inform you that I have taken the decision to relieve you of your position as a member of the shadow cabinet,” he said.