Mmusi a good guy, just badly advised: Helen Zille

31 October 2019 - 21:07 By Andisiwe Makinana
DA federal council chair Helen Zille. File photo.
DA federal council chair Helen Zille. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander

Newly elected DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille insists there was no bad blood between her and Mmusi Maimane, but that the former DA leader was badly advised in both his resignation from the party and in what has been dubbed the “Crush Zille” campaign.

“I like Mmusi, I respect him. We were very close until people advised him that if you want to get rid of the tag of being the head of a white party, which is totally untrue — it was a way of the ANC of keeping this race narrative alive that he was Zille's puppet — they said to him 'you know, Crush Zille' and then you won't be a puppet any more. That's where all the problems came from,” she told the Cape Town Press Club on Thursday.

“The bottom line is that he is a very good guy and I think he was badly advised for a very long time,” said Zille.

She said the party would have loved for Maimane to remain an MP and that he, too, wanted to — but, regrettably, he had included a line in his speech about the DA not being the vehicle best suited to take forward the vision of building one SA for all.

“He put this line in his speech … and I said to him afterwards, 'Why did you do it'? And he said to somebody else, not to me: 'I was badly advised',” revealed Zille, responding to a question about Maimane's future.

She said she wasn't aware what lay in his future but was sure he would land on his feet because he was highly capable.

“But he is a nice person and you can't be a nice person if you want to be surviving in political leadership. Very hard,” she said.

Maimane resigned as DA federal leader last Wednesday but announced that he would continue in the role of the party's parliamentary leader until the end of the year. Zille revealed that had Maimane not resigned from the caucus the next day, DA MPs were going to oust him in a vote of no confidence.

She also revealed details of how she found out that Maimane and Athol Trollip were going to resign while chairing her first federal executive meeting.

“I started getting WhatsApp messages from the media asking for comment on Mmusi’s resignation. I then get a WhatsApp message from my son, who said: ‘I’m really sorry it’s playing out this way.'

“I said I’m sitting next to him and the meeting is going well. I stopped the meeting and I said, 'I need to know what's going on. Is something going on here?'

“Athol and Mmusi said they were both planning to resign at a press conference at lunchtime, and this was half an hour to go.”

Earlier that day she had spoken to Maimane a couple of times about the agenda of the meeting, including the report of the review panel, and she even proposed to him that the party should go to an early congress by April and that he should decide, depending on how the lay of the land looked, whether he'd like to stand for leadership at that congress.

She had thought they had agreed that he would stay on as parliamentary leader until congress.

Even after Maimane and Trollip confirmed their plan to resign and could not be convinced to reconsider, it was agreed that Maimane would stay on as parliamentary leader.

“Unfortunately he went out and read a pre-prepared speech and he said the DA was no longer the vehicle best suited to take forward the vision of building one SA for all.

“If you say that and believe that you can go on as the parliamentary leader, well those two positions are entirely incompatible and of course the parliamentary caucus was up in arms — black and white — and he resigned before they tabled a motion of no confidence in him the next day because of that,” she said.

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