Mmusi Maimane. Picture: AFP
Mmusi Maimane. Picture: AFP

On Wednesday, the DA dared think-tank the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), saying if those who work for it have such strong opinions about the party, they should join it instead of sniping from the sidelines.

The media statement released by DA chief whip John Steenhuisen followed a furore on Twitter after the IRR tweeted an extract of an opinion piece by one of its analysts that called for DA leader Mmusi Maimane to resign and for Western Cape premier Alan Winde to be the party’s next leader.

Steenhuisen said the party rejected “the naked opportunism displayed by the IRR with its latest missive, in which it apparently seeks to raise funds in support of a presumed leadership contest within the DA”, with contempt.

He said the DA has noted the “obsessive preoccupation” that the IRR seems to have with the party’s internal political and ideological conversations and that the preoccupation has been increasing over the course of the past year or two.

Freedom of expression

He said the constitution provides for freedom of expression, but also for the freedom to join or form a political party.

“Given that the IRR has such strong opinions about the DA’s leadership and internal debates, they are more than welcome to become members of the DA and exercise their membership rights to participate in the DA’s next congress, at which the party’s leadership will be elected, instead of sniping from the sidelines and shamelessly piggybacking their fundraising appeals on to it,” Steenhuisen said.

He said the alternative, given “its obsession with the DA”, is to form its own political party and contest elections.

Steenhuisen’s comments followed a series of tweets from the IRR on the party's leadership. “The seed of the DA’s recovery has been planted by a white man in the Western Cape. Alan Winde should be the new leader of the DA. Stand with the IRR,” the IRR tweeted on Tuesday, asking for its supporters to send SMSs if they supported its cause.  

There is clear link between the IRR and the DA, with the party’s former leader Helen Zille taking up a position at the institute after her term as Western Cape premier came to an end. The DA’s former head of policy, Gwen Ngwenya, was also COO of the IRR before she took up a position in the DA.

Former DA official Gareth van Onselen [who is a BusinessLive columnist] also had a stint at the IRR as its head of policy and governance. He has since left to join market research company, Victory Research.

Maimane has been under fire over the past few weeks after  claims that he rented a house he initially claimed he owned. Soon after there were also allegations that he continued using  a vehicle sponsored by Steinhoff, months after the company was embroiled in a  corporate scandal, thereby tainting the DA’s image.

His leadership was also in the spotlight after the DA lost support for the first time in May this year in the general election.

Maimane has labelled the allegations as part of a smear campaign, while his supporters see it as an attack on his leadership.

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