Johannesburg – Former DA leader Mmusi Maimane and his successor John Steenhuisen traded political blows in the aftermath of this week’s Constitutional Court’s decision that cleared President Cyril Ramaphosa of allegations that he had lied to parliament over the R500 000 donation made to his 2017 ANC presidential campaign.
Maimane responded by slamming his successor, saying the official opposition had reduced itself to an extended Ramaphosa faction after Steenhuisen appeared to be putting the blame for the fiasco squarely on Maimane, who was the one who took Ramaphosa to the public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane over the donation.
Maimane, who now leads – One South Africa Movement, claimed in an interview with Sunday World that his holding of Ramaphosa to account was one of the reasons he was pushed out of the DA.
The former DA leader was responding to Steenhuisen’s reaction when he told the SABC that the party was not responsible for decisions made by Maimane and his former chief of staff, Graham Charters.
“I personally warned against the matter at the time when I served as chief whip,” Steenhuisen told the public broadcaster.
Steenhuisen’s chief of staff, Ryan Smith, said Maimane had made a “significant” error in how he had dealt with the donation matter.
“The DA has resigned itself only to the principle of the rule of law. That cannot be upheld when an incompetent public protector is seemingly propped up by and has the full support of, individuals such as Mr Maimane,” he added.
In turn, Maimane said Steenhuisen had conceded that the party was an extension of a faction in the ANC.
In October 2019, Sunday World reported that part of the reason Maimane was in hot water with his party was because he went for the jugular in getting Ramaphosa to account for the Bosasa donation when he lodged a complaint with Mkhwebane.
Some DA leaders had expressed concerns over the prospect of a David Mabuza presidency.
“Well, within the DA that wasn’t always popular when we say we demand accountability, whether it is Cyril or whoever,” Maimane said on Friday.
“There were some people in the organisation who felt uncomfortable with that posture because they thought that suddenly we must kowtow to Cyril because they liked him and they believed an old thing that said they will always work with a faction of Cyril in the ANC,” he added.
Maimane and former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba’s exit heralded an exodus of black leaders and a loss of electoral support in black, coloured and Indian communities.
The party’s decision to drop race as a determining factor in policy formulation has also been a bone of contention.
The Constitutional Court upheld a high court decision to set aside Mkhwebane’s report into the CR17 donation, saying Ramaphosa had not misled parliament.
Smith said the court ruling had nothing to do with Ramaphosa, but “everything to do with the office of the public protector, whose report on the donation was legally flawed and highly irregular”.
“Mmusi Maimane made a significant error in welcoming this report when he was party leader. In doing so, he only legitimised the public protector and her work when she has been found countless times to have a rudimentary understanding of the law at best,” he said.
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