DA slams 'obsessive' IRR for calling on Maimane to step down in opinion piece

IRR analyst and writer, Hermann Pretorius, penned a piece on Tuesday in which he said the DA was still reeling from its worst electoral performance in the general elections earlier this year.

FILE: DA leader Mmusi Maimane. Picture: @Our_DA/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG – The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Wednesday slammed the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) over an opinion by one of its analysts calling for Mmusi Maimane to step down as party leader following questions raised about a house he rented in Cape Town and a car donation from Steinhoff.

IRR analyst and writer, Hermann Pretorius, penned an opinion piece on Tuesday in which he said the DA was still reeling from its worst electoral performance in the general elections earlier this year. Pretorius said the party had to “reject the notion that the skin colour of politicians had any bearing on their ability to improve the lives of their constituents”.

The DA won 20.77% of the votes in those elections, which was 470,396 fewer people who voted for the party in the polls than it did in 2009.

Pretorius also called for the DA to elect Western Cape Premier Alan Winde as the party’s next leader, saying Maimane was ultimately responsible for “political failure” and the DA was leaderless under him.

However, in a statement on Wednesday, DA chief whip John Steenhuisen hit out at the IRR, saying the party rejected with contempt the “naked opportunism” displayed by the institute with its “latest missive, in which it apparently seeks to raise funds in support of a presumed leadership contest within the DA”.

“The DA has noted the obsessive preoccupation that the IRR seems to have with the DA’s internal political and ideological conversations. This preoccupation has been increasing over the course of the last year or two,” Steenhuisen said through the statement.

Recently, Maimane came under fire following controversies that laid bare divisions within the DA. It was reported that he had declared a Claremont house worth almost R4 million as one of his assets on the parliamentary registry, which was later found he was renting from Durban businessman Wessel Jacobs.

He also faced criticism for using a donated Toyota Fortuner from Steinhoff's former CEO Markus Jooste, which the DA said was returned following the revelations on the retail conglomerate’s “accounting irregularities”. Maimane, though, said the allegations against him were part of a smear campaign by “gutless individuals” who were spreading lies about him.

Pretorius said of the reports: “More recently, a second narrative asset for the party has started crumbling: that of the DA’s being, despite any significant failings it might have, the only major party that has consistently been unscathed by the regular storms of corruption that almost permanently soak our politics. The truth about the precise nature of Maimane’s residence and the circumstances of his using a car gifted by Markus Jooste of Steinhoff infamy is yet to come out.

“But what is now clear is that Maimane’s reputation and position is weakening perceptibly almost by the day. Any damage suffered by Maimane were he to lose his corruption-free status would in all probability cost him his position, but it will also cost the DA its reputation as a party uninvolved in the political game of corrupt and undue gain.”

Steenhuisen said the Constitution guaranteed all South Africans the right to freedom of expression and to join or form political parties. He said the IRR was more than welcome to become members of the DA given their “strong opinions about the DA’s leadership and internal debates”.

“Given their obsession with the DA, the other option for the IRR is to form their own political party and contest elections in its own name – rather than attempt to piggy-back on the DA’s successes in government, as it is currently trying to do while fronting as an NPO,” he said.

Steenhuisen added that the DA would not be distracted from its tasking of governing its municipalities in the Western Cape, Tshwane, Johannesburg, and Cape Town, including its role as the official opposition in Parliament and other legislatures across the country.