Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The DA insists that with a year to go until the 2019 general election there is no talk of senior party leaders planning or forming a breakaway political party.

This follows a report in the City Press on Sunday that at least five senior leaders, angry about the direction the DA is heading under Mmusi Maimane, have been holding consultations on starting a new "true liberal party" with former leader Helen Zille at the helm.

DA deputy federal chairwoman Refiloe Ntsekhe has denied this, claiming that since the congress earlier in 2018, the party was more united than ever.

"What you do see in the DA, which is beautiful, is that because we are a liberal organisation people are encouraged to have debates and challenge each other on different positions around different policies; that is how we come up with better policies going into elections.

'No breakaway group'

"But there isn’t a breakaway group, for that matter, it is actually nonsensical that anyone in the DA would start a political party less than a year before an election," she said.

Ntsekhe acknowledged that some prominent black members of the party had left but that this did not mean the party was splitting.

The DA is preparing for a rough election battle in 2019 as it sets its sights on taking control of Gauteng, the country’s economic powerhouse. This follows its success in the 2016 municipal elections, where through coalition agreements with smaller opposition parties and the vote from the EFF, it managed to take control of half of the country’s metros.

But in the run-up to the 2019 election, the DA faces issues internally and externally, such as the handling of a very public battle with Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille; discord over diversity and quotas; the Western Cape water crisis; and the new ANC leadership under Cyril Ramaphosa.

City Press quoted SA Institute of Race Relations CE Frans Cronje as confirming that he had been approached for advice on how to go about forming the new party. He said there had already been three meetings with "like-minded people", including formations sympathetic to the cause.

However, Ntsekhe said the DA met Cronje regularly. He attended a Gauteng caucus meeting last week, and it was not uncommon for the party to have meetings with civil society organisations.

"We engage regularly as the DA to find out from their perspective how they see the South African landscape and what is happening in the country."

Ntsekhe said the recent meeting with Cronje had nothing to do with forming a new political party.

Cronje said on Monday that the meetings referred to in the City Press report were "broader meetings of the liberal community" and took place over the past three or so years.

At these meetings many things were discussed, including the possibility of starting a liberal party, but the idea was dismissed except on some fringes of the community, he said.

"There is no group of DA MPs, to my knowledge, who are actively driving the idea - more like they’re trying to rein in the fringes," Cronje said.

"I think the DA is in some trouble, deeply factionalised, and unsure of what it stands for - and that is coming to the fore."

Cronje believes a splinter in the DA is improbable.

Zille had not responded to questions at the time of publication.

• This article was updated with comment from SAIRR CE Frans Cronje.