The DA’s bid to remove Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille has deepened divisions within the party, which has resulted in the resignation of key leaders.
The bitter struggle for power is threatening to tear the DA apart, which may paralyse its election machinery in the build-up to the general elections next year.
The Sunday Times understands that the “black caucus” leaders in the party were unhappy about the decision to remove De Lille and are expected to come to her defence in the coming weeks.
The resignation of two prominent DA MPLs, Nosimo Balindlela and Veliswa Mvenya, is said to have been triggered, along with other issues, by the push to boot De Lille out of the DA.
Other DA leaders said to be unhappy include Gauteng leader John Moodey and his KwaZulu-Natal counterpart, Zwakele Mncwango. Contacted for comment, Moodey referred the Sunday Times to party federal executive chairman James Selfe.
Selfe said neither Mvenya nor Balindlela left because of dissatisfaction over the De Lille issue. “Mvenya never raised that issue and Balindlela expressed her deepest appreciation to the DA.”
Asked whether the party was concerned about the exodus, Selfe said it was “orchestrated” by the ANC. “They are doing this deliberately to recruit our members, but they have done that before and it did not have a huge impact.”
A DA insider who is opposed to De Lille confirmed that a number of people had raised concerns about how she was being dealt with.
“De Lille has a right to clear her name,” he said. But she should find recourse in the courts if she felt hard done by by the DA. “Why does she have to be inside the party for her to clear her name?” He said it appeared as if she wanted to destroy the party on her way out.
The insider, based in the Western Cape, said there was talk that some of her supporters were ready to leave with her, including some members of her executive.
Balindlela resigned last week to rejoin the ANC. The Sunday Times has reliably learnt that she recently had an outburst at a caucus meeting, telling her colleagues that she could leave the DA at any time as she had already been approached by the ANC.
Caucus leader Bobby Stevenson denied the incident happened.
Eastern Cape DA leader Nqaba Bhanga said: “Mam Nosimo said she is going to the ANC because the president of the ANC spoke to her to come back to the ANC. That’s what she said to us.”
Mvenya, in the resignation letter she sent to provincial party chairman Andrew Whitfield, said she was taking a break from politics.
She told the Sunday Times: “I think I have done enough with the DA and I am happy with my contribution.”
She said that even if she re-entered politics, she would not rejoin the DA. “I am not a DA politician; I am a South African politician. I love politics because they create a platform to give your contribution to the country.”
The DA has distributed an “explainer” document to its member and leaders on why De Lille has to go.
“The overwhelming evidence against Ms de Lille still exists, and is still there for everyone to see,” it says. “The DA can’t continue the internal process against her as she is no longer a member, but there remains a possibility that other legal/criminal processes will still come to be from other corners.”