Phumzile Van Damme on Twitter warpath against John Steenhuisen over 'unsolicited' sabbatical

04 December 2020 - 22:05 By aphiwe deklerk
The DA's Phumzile Van Damme
The DA's Phumzile Van Damme
Image: Gallo Images / Beeld / Jaco Marais

DA MP Phumzile Van Damme is on the warpath on Twitter against her own party, after she was allegedly granted a sabbatical without requesting it.

Van Damme took to Twitter on Friday afternoon and disclosed that party leader John Steenhuisen had given her a sabbatical without her asking for it.

Van Damme declined to comment when approached by TimesLIVE.

I have been informed by the Federal Leader of the DA @jsteenhuisen that he is granting me a sabbatical. I didn’t request it. He merely informed me. I could walk away, but I choose to stay, and challenge it ON PRINCIPLE. .

I’ve been open about being sick. I’ve been on sick leave for 3 months, ending 15 Dec [December]. I informed the Chief Whip, I’d still focus on my committee work while on sick leave. I disclosed my illness even though I didn’t need to. So it is being used against me to sideline me. K,” Van Damme tweeted.

Did I drop the ball while I was sick? No. Even when I was sick, like I do when I am well, did I still outperform many of my colleagues? Yes. I asked for no sabbatical. I determine my health. My Drs determine my health. Not my employer,” she added.

Van Damme is no stranger to Twitter wars with her own party leadership. Earlier this year, she took on federal council chairperson Helen Zille after her controversial apartheid tweets.

The tweets come as Steenhuisen is finalising talks about reshuffling the party's shadow cabinet, where Van Damme served as shadow minister for communications.

DA insiders said Steenhuisen held one-on-one talks with individual shadow ministers from two weeks ago and he was widely expected to announce his new cabinet last week, but that did not happen.

The DA, however, announced Siviwe Gwarube as the new party spokesperson to replace Solly Malatsi.

Steenhuisen, through his spokesperson, confirmed that he had given Van Damme a sabbatical.

“I have had to make changes to my shadow cabinet after my election, having inherited a shadow cabinet I did not appoint. It is the prerogative of the leader to do so and has been exercised by every DA leader. This is a decision made in consultation with the caucus leadership and with Ms Van Damme’s best interest at heart. I am sorry she is trying to portray it otherwise,” said Steenhuisen.

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