Phumzile van Damme goes public on the 'real' reason she quit as MP — and takes on Steenhuisen in the process
Former DA MP and party spokesperson Phumzile van Damme has broken her silence about what she says are the real reasons she quit her job in parliament.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Van Damme made serious claims about how party chief whip Natasha Mazzone allegedly tried to block her from going after social media company Facebook after the US-based company earlier this year decided to pull out of attending a portfolio committee meeting.
Van Damme, during her tenure as an MP, had been known for her passion in fighting fake news and misinformation.
But in her tweets, where she tags party leader John Steenhuisen, she tells of how not only was she told to “lay off Facebook”, but had been approached by a Facebook lobbyist at a time when the company had been asked to come and account.
She claimed that Steenhuisen had “lied to the media” about why she had resigned, and said she “was not going to do this”.
It is unclear exactly what had happened to prompt the public response from the former MP.
DA spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube could not be reached by the time of publication, and Mazzone had not replied to a text message asking her for her side of the story. This story will be updated once these comments are provided.
“I see [Steenhuisen] has lied to the media about why I resigned from the DA. I was going to leave this. The day I resigned, I was told by the chief whip, Mazzone, to lay off Facebook. I could not do that and compromise my values so I resigned,” tweeted Van Damme.
Right, I was going to do this. I see @jsteenhuisen has lied to the media about why I resigned from the DA. I was going to leave this. The day I resigned, I was told by the Chief Whip, Mazzone to lay off Facebook. I could not do that & compromise my values so I resigned.— Phumzile Van Damme (@zilevandamme) August 25, 2021
She said she was not going to engage over her departure because when she resigned she took a stance that if the party left her alone, she would leave it alone.
“I've literally been minding my business. You wanted me not to go after Facebook because it might affect the parties' votes. I said no. Keep my name out of your mouth, [Steenhuisen]. Drag me, I'll drag you. I have way more material on you. Try me,” she tweeted.
Van Damme said she was glad her name was no longer associated with “the joke” the DA had become under Steenhuisen's leadership.
“You are the country's laughingstock [and] in the DA. I was not going to engage in war but you just couldn't keep your trap shut could you? Mention my name again. I beg,” retorted Van Damme.
As part of her tweets, Van Damme attached the conversation she and Mazzone had about the Facebook incident, during which she said she would be resigning from the party.
At the time of her resignation, Van Damme had a frosty relationship with party leadership as she was facing a disciplinary case over an incident where she allegedly assaulted a man at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town in an allegedly racially motivated incident.
She had also been demoted by Steenhuisen from her job as communications spokesperson and placed on sabbatical, a move which she fought bitterly.