Helen Zille. Picture: VELI NHLAPO/THE SOWETAN
Helen Zille. Picture: VELI NHLAPO/THE SOWETAN

The DA is still to inform its former leader Helen Zille and two other MPs about complaints referred to the party's federal legal commission (FLC) regarding their controversial tweets. 

Zille, Michael Cardo and Ghaleb Cachalia — who were all caught in a Twitter storm over the past week — confirmed on Thursday that they had not yet received any official correspondence from the DA. It emerged after the party’s first caucus meeting of the new parliament, that complaints against them had been referred to the FLC.

Cardo said he heard about a disciplinary inquiry into his conduct via a news report. He said no one had communicated anything to him about the referral. Zille learnt about the referral on Twitter, while Cachalia heard about it in party leader Mmusi Maimane’s briefing.

FLC chair Glynnis Breytenbach told Business Day that it was “unfortunate” that the announcement was made before the letters informing them of the referral were sent out to the affected parties. Shesaid this was not due to anything “sinister”. The letters still have to be sent. 

Breytenbach said the commission, which only works on referrals from the DA’s federal executive, would first have to investigate the complaints. Investigations have not yet started.

In terms of the DA processes, the legal commission will have to conduct its own investigation and then make a recommendation to the federal executive as to whether they should be charged or not.

Breytenbach emphasised that nobody has been charged with anything. 

Zille was rapped over the knuckles by Maimane on Tuesday after being involved in a Twitter war on white and black privilege.

“Let me say this categorically: I do not agree with the views that have been put forward by the former premier of the Western Cape. The discussion about privilege in this country is a function not only of our history … which advantaged a particular race over another, but it is also a function of what the last number of years has done in government where we have failed to create access to opportunity for all South Africans and ensuring that ultimately more South Africans can, in fact, be included in our economy,” Maimane said on Tuesday.

“The resolution of that challenge is not a function of discussing black privilege or white privilege. It is a discussion of asking black South Africans and white South Africans to address a historical injustice. And therefore any view that seeks to polarise on the basis of race is not a view I will support,” he said.

He said the focus must be on black and white South Africans to work together to address injustices. Cachalia was accused of homophobia for a tweet directed at Radio 702 talk show host Eusebius McKaiser for referring to him as a “woman scorned”.

Cardo referred to a user as being the reincarnation of late Twitter user Pieter Howes, who allegedly suffered from depression and committed suicide. .

Some in the the so-called liberal grouping of the party however saw the move by the DA leadership as part of the struggle for the soul of the party following the bruising 2019 general elections which saw it losing  support nationally and in its stronghold of the Western Cape.

Another DA member referred to the announcement on Tuesday as “amateur hour”, while political scientist RW Johnson, in an article on Politicsweb on Wednesday, called the party’s decision to launch “punitive investigations” as “ridiculous”.

“The idea that what the party needs to do is crackdown on free speech in its ranks rather than look at the really serious problems it faces is grotesque,” Johnson wrote.

The party has said it will conduct a review of all of its structures and processes following the election results, for which the DA’s federal executive took collective responsibility. Maimane took personal responsibility for the results. 

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