Former Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille is set to appear before the party’s disciplinary panel on Friday for her tweets on colonialism.
This was confirmed on Monday by Advocate Glynnis Breytenbach, chairperson of the DA’s federal legal commission, who said it would be a “first appearance”.
“They will set timelines. No evidence will be led,” she told News24.
Zille has been charged with having brought the DA into disrepute, and of damaging the party, in her March 16 tweets defending aspects of colonialism.
Party leader Mmusi Maimane on Saturday announced that Zille had been suspended from the DA in this regard. She remains premier of the Western Cape.
Shortly after the announcement of her suspension, Zille hit back at the party, accusing its federal executive of not complying with its own constitution.
In a statement on her Twitter account, she said there was a contradiction in the letter she received from the party’s federal executive chair James Selfe, and Maimane’s announcement.
She believed the suspension did not comply with Section 3.6.3 of the federal constitution, which requires that she be given time to make representations on the matter.
The party seemingly made a U-turn when it issued another statement claiming that the federal executive had written to Zille to signify its intention to temporarily suspend her from party activities, until the conclusion of the disciplinary proceedings instituted against her.
“We have given Helen Zille the opportunity to indicate to us why she should not be suspended,” the statement read.
Selfe confirmed on Monday that he had not yet received representations from Zille.
“I imagine that we will receive them during the course of tomorrow [Tuesday].”
He added that Zille had referred to the wrong chapter of the party constitution, which dealt with suspension of membership. The federal executive had been referring to section 11, suspension from party activities, he said.
“If you take away someone’s membership, they cannot do anything in the party. If you suspend someone from party activity, they can carry on with ordinary life, they can write Daily Maverick articles, they can tweet.”
Section 11, titled “Referral to Disciplinary Committee'” states: “No provision of the constitution limits the right of the Federal Executive or a Provincial Executive: to temporarily suspend a member from taking part in any or all of the activities of the Party, pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing in terms of this chapter.”
Maimane said Zille had continued to damage the DA with various pieces of communication that sought to undermine what the party was trying to achieve.
“Zille’s social media commentary and public utterances in connection with colonialism undermine our reconciliation project. There is no question that Zille’s original tweets and subsequent justifications have damaged our standing in the public mind.
“I asked Ms Zille to tender an unreserved apology to both South Africa and the DA for the damage she has done. Unfortunately, she declined.”
After the initial outrage over her tweets, Zille did apologise and said she was not defending or justifying colonialism, but only highlighting that its consequences were not only negative.
In her Twitter statement on Saturday, she said: “I have apologised. What I have not agreed to do is to plead guilty to charges of misconduct which I have never committed.”
Maimane’s reasons for why the party’s federal executive had decided to suspend her were not the full story, Zille said.
She added that she was prepared to face a full disciplinary hearing, saying that she did not accept that the party had a right to suspend her before the hearings.
“I cannot be bullied into resigning or incriminating myself.”
The political party’s disciplinary hearings are not open to the media.
Selfe confirmed they were considering an application by a media house to open the hearing.
Anyone who wanted to submit such an application for consideration should do so before Friday, said Breytenbach.
The team appointed to lead the disciplinary hearing includes Hans-Jurie Moolman, who is a DA councillor from Potchefstroom; Pogiso Monchusi, who is a party member who does not hold public office; and Dr Annelie Lotriet, who is a DA Member of Parliament.