Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille has accused the Sunday Times of making “false claims” about what happened at a meeting of the party’s Federal Exectutive (Fedex) on Friday. She also blamed the leaks to the newspaper on members of her Fedex, saying they were designed to “advance personal agendas in the DA’s succession race”.
“The Sunday Times story is misleadingly designed to make it appear as if it is based on a public attack by me against Lindiwe Mazibuko. This is devoid of truth.
“The story has been concocted by twisting selective leaks from the DA’s Federal Executive meeting, in which, inevitably, Lindiwe’s decision to go to Harvard University, and the implications of her decision, were discussed,” Zille said in a statement.
The Sunday Times broke the story last week that popular young leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko, was giving up her position as the DA’s parliamentary leader to take up a scholarship at Harvard University in the US. The story preceded a week of claims and counter claims as various DA factions and media political pundits, spurred on by media interest, stoked the story. This week, the newspaper published a story headlined ‘Mazibuko nothing without me – Zille’, a story that had the Twitter on fire on Sunday.
Now Zille has moved to try and control a story that has become out of control, saying she wanted to “set the record straight”. She said DA convention held that members of Fedex should not speak out but “given that a few members of the Fedex have chosen to ignore this convention, I must set out the facts”, she said.
She said Athol Trollip, the leader of the Eastern Cape, asked a “series” of questions about Mazibuko’s departure. Zille denies she ever said she “made” Mazibuko, the word used in the headline of the Sunday Times story. “And I did not say I “saved” her. I certainly did not say that she would be “nothing without me”, as the Sunday Times headline falsely claims,” Zille wrote.
She said she had “repeatedly taken responsibility for mistakes made in Parliament, in an attempt to protect her and the Parliamentary team. That is also a fact, and no-one in the know would dispute it”. Zille went on to list the facts of the story of the relationship between her and Mazibuko, and the reasons for the “resistance” to Mazibuko’s leadership in parliament and the “Berlin wall” erected between Mazibuko’s officer and Zille’s own. Zille said Mazibuko “gave her reasons for going to Harvard to the Fedex only after the announcement appeared in the media, and we agreed to draw a line under it. I wished her well, and spent the day talking to the media defending her decision”.
But a tell-all column by former DA communications strategist, Gareth van Onselen, in Business Day led to a new round of revelations and counter revelations. Zille said when Van Onselen announced that he would give the “reall reasons” for Mazibuko’s decision, Zille called Mazibuko and “mentioned that it would do serious damage to her credibility if he gave different reasons from those she had given to Fedex and that she should, at all costs seek to avoid a contradiction between the reasons she had given and the ones that Gareth van Onselen gave. I noted that, during the previous week, one of Lindiwe’s closest confidantes had been seen briefing Gareth van Onselen”.
Zille said she was concerned that some media platforms were being abused by “so-called journalists and columnists who are embedded in a particular faction of the DA”.
“It should be of serious concern to journalists and media practitioners that such individuals are using their media ‘cover’ to drive a factional agenda in the DA’s succession battle,” she said.
She said she would request meetings with the editors of the Business Day and the Sunday Times “to discuss the way forward with them”.
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