Former Democratic Alliance (DA) leader, Helen Zille, has dismissed reports that there is a link between the official opposition party and the Institute of Race Relations (IRR).
This follows a controversial opinion piece written by Hermann Pretorious, an analyst and writer at the think tank. Zille has been in the employ of IRR as a senior policy fellow, writer and analyst since early this year.
In the opinion piece, which most regard as racist and calling for the removal of current DA leader Mmusi Maimane, Pretorious wrote that “the seed of the DA’s recovery has been planted by a white man in the Western Cape. If the party has any bottle, any mettle, any fight left at all, it will see in the leadership of Allan Winde its future as the real party for all South Africans.”
Winde is current Western Cape Premier and has already made it clear that he is not interested in running for the presidency of the DA.
Maimane has been in the news recently after being accused of delaying to return a white Toyota Fortuner that was donated by Steinhoff’s former Chief Executive Officer, Markus Jooste. Some in the DA said Maimane was instructed to return the vehicle as soon as reports of the company’s financial scandals emerged.
In recent weeks Maimane has also been asked to prove that he's got a lease agreement and pays rent for the R4 million plush home in Claremont in Cape Town, owned by another businessman.
“No connection whatsoever between the DA and the IRR. IRR is a liberal think tank and has nothing to do with the DA. We believe in free speech at the institute. So anyone can say what they like within the law.
If you read the comments in context, he said race should not be the key issue when you’re electing or appointing people to positions. It should be the ability to do the job. That’s the point he was making,” explained Zille.
However, the former Western Cape Premier agrees that the piece was “badly written” and that fed into the confusion.
“The bottom line is that he was trying to say Alan’s whiteness should not stand in his way. But I think he worded it in a bad way and he worded it in such a way that it can easily be interpreted in a completely different way. I would never have worded it like that at all,” said Zille, who is a former journalist.
On her relationship with Maimane, Zille said: “I’ve always had a very civil and good relationship with Maimane. Not spoken to him on the latest scandals. Mmusi and I are very friendly and cordial towards each other. But we don’t phone each other on any kind of regular basis.”
She added that she is not involved at the moment in the internal issues of the DA, adding that “I am only a local branch chairperson in Bloubergstrand.”The piece was dismissed by the DA’s Chief Whip, John Steenhuisen.
”Given that the IRR has such strong opinions about the DA’s leadership and internal debates, they are more than welcome to become members of the DA and exercise their membership rights to participate in the DA’s next congress, at which the party’s leadership will be elected, instead of sniping from the sidelines and shamelessly piggy-backing their fundraising appeals onto it,” read a statement released by Steenhuisen.