Opposition leader Maimane under fire


Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane has a possible palace revolution on his hands. Furious party members fired questions at him during Saturday’s meeting of the DA’s federal council after the party’s federal executive gave Dianne Kohler Barnard the boot. They wanted Maimane to explain why the recommendations of the party’s federal legal commission were not accepted.

“How is it that the DA’s own internal disciplinary board’s recommendations can be overturned by a political decision?” a source with insight into Saturday’s federal council meeting told City Press’s sister newspaper, Rapport. Kohler Barnard earlier pleaded guilty to misconduct, bringing the party into disrepute and contravening the party’s social media policy after sharing a Facebook post saying that the country was in a better state under the leadership of apartheid strongman PW Botha.

The DA’s legal commission’s recommendations included that Kohler Barnard pay a fine, attend a course on the use of social media, and that she be demoted as chief spokesperson on police to the position of deputy spokesperson of public works. Kohler Barnard has already said she will appeal the federal executive’s decision. She declined to comment further on Saturday morning.
If her appeal fails, it will mean the end of her 11-year career as a politician and a DA MP. The DA’s federal executive consists of Maimane as party leader, Helen Zille in her capacity as former national leader, the party’s nine provincial leaders, federal chairperson Athol Trollip, three deputy federal chairpersons and members of the federal council.

Zille told Rapport on Saturday that she had no insight into what had happened at Friday night’s meeting because she was in Mexico. There is increasing pressure on Maimane to show that the DA is rooting out racism in its ranks. Media commentators said if Maimane did not act now, his inspiring speeches would prove meaningless.

Sources said it wasn’t Maimane’s doing that Kohler Barnard was kicked out. “Mmusi delivered a plea that Dianne should stay in the party,” said one. He and DA chief whip John Steenhuisen failed to convince the other federal executive mem- bers. “I can imagine Mmusi must be bitterly upset about it and wishes it all away,” said another party source.

Maimane declined to comment yesterday and referred questions to DA national spokesperson Phumzile van Damme. She said she was not permitted to comment on internal issues. Trollip also rejected requests for comment and insisted that the DA follow the correct processes. – Rapport.