It's DA-Day for Helen Zille

02 April 2017 - 02:04 By JAN-JAN JOUBERT and THABO MOKONE

The DA leadership faces a watershed moment this morning as its federal executive meets to decide how to deal with former leader Helen Zille's comments on colonialism.

The fedex meeting comes as efforts to broker a truce between Zille and DA leader Mmusi Maimane failed again this week.

DA insiders have now expressed fear that the matter could turn into a legal battle as neither Zille nor Maimane is willing to relent.

At today's meeting in Cape Town, the fedex is due to receive a report from Glynnis Breytenbach, chairwoman of the party's federal legal commission, on the tweets Zille posted two weeks ago.

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Zille has since repeated the comments even though she apologised for the offence her tweets had caused.

Breytenbach, who had a meeting with Zille last week where Zille explained her actions, is expected to make recommendations to the fedex on whether Zille should be subjected to any disciplinary action.

The dispute is likely to turn into a proxy battle over who has real control over and in effect leads the DA - Maimane or Zille.

"Unless some sort of truce can be engineered - which I doubt - only one will be left standing," a DA provincial leader said.

The fedex consists of some 30 members, including all provincial leaders, and Zille is a co-opted member.

DA leaders the Sunday Times spoke to were reluctant to express their views on how the fedex should deal with the matter, fearing that the Western Cape premier may question the fairness of the process.

But those who support Maimane and want firm action taken against Zille are in a strong majority on the body.

Maimane is said to enjoy support from Gauteng, Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, while Zille has the backing of her home province, the Western Cape, and of the DA Women's Network.

DA leader in Limpopo Jacques Smalle said although he did not want to prejudge Zille, it would not look good for the party if no action was taken.

"I'm going there to hear Helen out and I believe that you must be given the platform to speak.

"But obviously it can't be business as usual. The federal legal commission can make a finding and that finding can be increased or decreased by the fedex.

"Come Monday morning it's going to be very difficult to have the status quo remain with no penalty at all.

"If there are no consequences at all, I don't think it will sit well with the leadership of Limpopo. There should be repercussions," said Smalle.

Patricia Kopane, the Free State DA leader, said Zille's comments had, "to a certain extent", put a strain on the party's leadership.

However, she said Zille should be dealt with fairly .

This week, in the Western Cape legislature, Zille added the car to her growing list of positive colonial legacies in South Africa.

"I am talking about the motor car. Today in South Africa, this colonial leftover is not only a means of transport, but the ultimate status symbol," she said.

She defended her tweet as a "simple statement of fact" and said it had sparked a "critical" debate of "urgent national importance".

She has repeated and added to her views in articles, questioning whether African nationalism was becoming the DA's philosophy. She said she was deeply grateful for the DA's colonial legacy.