Phumzile van Damme unexpectedly quits as DA spokesperson
The DA’s rising star‚ Phumzile van Damme‚ has surprisingly quit her job as the party’s national spokeswoman.
Van Damme reportedly told DA top brass of her decision two weeks ago‚ but the party has kept this under wraps due to the factional battle within the City of Cape Town where the party is trying to remove Patricia de Lille as mayor.
She is the third high-profile member to quit a public post in recent months.
Earlier this month‚ former DA Youth Leader‚ Mbali Ntuli‚ quit her job as a member of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature to take up a position as the party’s provincial head of campaign strategy. And‚ last year‚ Gavin Davis quit as the party’s head of policy and media.
Coming at a time when De Lille continues to fight to save her political life in the party‚ Van Damme’s resignation is likely to further fuel the perception of strong black women being sidelined in the DA.
DA insiders with knowledge of Van Damme’s resignation said she made the decision because she did not get enough support in her office as a national spokeswoman. Health reasons were also cited‚ a party insider said.
One of the things Van Damme was reportedly upset about — and which she voiced to party leadership — was the party’s decision not to support the ANC-sponsored motion of no confidence in De Lille‚ choosing instead to bring its own.
"It is hypocritical. We say the same thing about the ANC in Parliament‚ about voting with a conscience‚" said the insider.
Van Damme confirmed her resignation to TimesLIVE‚ but did not give reasons.
"The reasons I have provided I discussed with the party leadership‚ some of which are private‚" said Van Damme. However she tweeted that she resigned because she is a newlywed and wants to plan a family.
I will be focusing on other pursuits, I’m a newly wed & would to start a family (no I’m not pregnant). I’ve registered for a part-time long distance Master/. I want more balance in my life, focusing on fixing the country, as well as me.— Phumzile Van Damme (@zilevandamme) February 14, 2018
A DA insider familiar with the party’s communications structures said it was very disappointing that Van Damme had resigned because she was being treated as a darling of the party ahead of the other spokeswoman, Refiloe Ntsekhe.
She was assigned the high-profile issues‚ said the insider.
"She is sent to communicate on all the strategic media [issues] while Refiloe is sent to ANN7‚" the source said.
She said she did not know why Van Damme would resign, given the special treatment she received.
Another DA insider said he was aware that Van Damme had quit her post‚ but thought the matter was still being negotiated internally.
"I don’t talk all the time with Phumzile. [Recently] she has been used to communicate some ‘witch-hunt decisions’ and I was a bit concerned that they were using her and considered the implications on her persona as well‚" said the party member.
He said one of those decisions was when Van Damme was asked to communicate the decision that De Lille had three days to say why she should not resign‚ only for the party to later backtrack.
"The organisation then came out and said De Lille should not be rushed. This is after Van Damme was seen on national TV saying‚ ‘We can’t have a caucus leader like that‚ we have heard enough as a party … we need new leadership in the party within 72 hours’‚" said the DA insider.
He said‚ similarly‚ Van Damme was asked to communicate that Western Cape premier Helen Zille was going to face a disciplinary hearing‚ only for the party to come to a different decision.
"These decisions are going to cost her … when she wants to stand [for leadership positions]‚" he added.
James Selfe‚ chairman of the DA federal executive‚ said: "Phumzile has resigned as national spokesperson for personal reasons."
He said the party wanted to wait until they had a successor lined up before they made it public and the party was still preoccupied with the former president Jacob Zuma and the City of Cape Town matters at the moment.