Phumzile Van Damme slams Douglas Gibson for 'reducing' Mbali Ntuli to race and age

30 October 2020 - 11:57
DA MP Phumzile Van Damme slammed the party's former federal council chairperson Douglas Gibson for his comments on Mbali Ntuli.
DA MP Phumzile Van Damme slammed the party's former federal council chairperson Douglas Gibson for his comments on Mbali Ntuli.
Image: Gallo Images / Beeld / Jaco Marais

DA MP Phumzile Van Damme has slammed the party's former federal council chairperson Douglas Gibson for his comments on Mbali Ntuli, saying Gibson had reduced Ntuli to her race and age.

On Thursday, Gibson told EWN that he was rallying behind DA leader John Steenhuisen for the position of federal leader, instead of Ntuli. He said Steenhuisen was more suited for the job because he is “matured” and “experienced”, something that the DA needed.

“I think you don’t send in your third team to go into a rugby Test, you put your first team in. I think Mbali, nice as she is, clever as she is, good as she is, I think she is a little early. The DA has tried this on two occasions and has flopped,” said Gibson.

The two occasions that Gibson was referring to were the tenures of former leader Mmusi Maimane and former parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko.

Ntuli and Steenhuisen will go head to head for the position when the party's virtual federal congress takes place on Saturday and Sunday.

Hitting back at Gibson, Van Damme said Gibson's comment was “appalling”.

“I thought race didn’t matter? Here is Mbali, a black candidate and she is, therefore, the third black candidate and the last two times it 'flopped', so she must not be elected? Gross. I hope you were misquoted and will set it right,” she said.

Van Damme defended Ntuli's experience in the DA, saying that youth was no barrier to leadership.

“Mbali has 14 years in the DA, has business experience, is studying for a master's while being a mother to a toddler while doing her work brilliantly. Reducing her to her race and age? Do better,” she told Gibson.

Van Damme said she hoped that Gibson was aware of how deeply insulting his comment is not to just young black women, but that it also goes against everything the DA claims to stand for.

In a separate cryptic post, Van Damme advised young black women to “kick the door down” when the establishment tries to lock them out of opportunities.

“Do not ever cower. Do not ever bend the knee. Do not ever play small. Do not ever dim your light to make the mediocre feel comfortable in your presence. It is not your job to tiptoe around insecurities but walk boldly in your achievements, your worth and be your full potential,” said Van Damme.

Defending herself, Ntuli clapped back, saying she may be young but she was not inexperienced.

“Started in 2008 building DA's branches on campuses and townships. Have been a provincial director running an entire province campaign. Have started branches where the DA never existed. Two-term MPL, among many other internal positions. I'm young but not inexperienced,” said Ntuli.

Defending his comments, Gibson said they were not appalling and that he was not reducing Ntuli to her age or race.

He told Van Damme that the DA needed a leader with parliamentary leadership experience to lead the opposition in SA.

“We need a leader with parliamentary leadership experience to lead the opposition in SA, managing a 100+ caucus and unifying 4 million supporters,” said Gibson.

Gibson maintained that nothing he said about Ntuli had to do with race. He accused Van Damme of smearing him with racism.

“Phumzile, knowing me and what I have done and still do to advance the cause of non-racialism and the values of our constitution, it is appalling that you smear me with racism. Nothing I said or wrote about the two candidates has anything to do with race,” he said.

“I did not reduce her to race and gender, and you know it. I referred to her being a provincial MPL with not one day in parliament. If elected she'll receive our loyalty and support, but John, with his parliamentary record, is what the DA and SA needs now. That's not racism.”


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