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DA 'factional warfare' prompts IRR to 'save' SA opposition parties

The institute said it was, in fact, its job to 'interfere' in the affairs of business, government, and political parties 'all the time to win their support for policies that will ensure South Africa’s success and the prosperity of all its people'.

FILE: Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane. Picture: Twitter/@Our_DA

JOHANNESBURG – The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) on Monday launched its #SaveTheOpposition campaign, which the think tank said was in response to the “dire state of opposition politics in South Africa”. But, interestingly the campaign seemed focused only on the Democratic Alliance (DA) following recent infighting within the official opposition party that had spilled into the public domain.

The IRR’s campaign also followed a controversial opinion piece last week by its campaign's coordinator and analyst, Hermann Pretorius, in which he called for DA leader Mmusi Maimane to resign and for Western Cape Premier Alan Winde to succeed him to “return the party to a trajectory of growth”.

Maimane recently faced criticism over allegations that he had declared a house worth almost R4 million as one of his assets and drove a car donated by Steinhoff's Markus Jooste. He was cleared of any wrongdoing by the DA’s financial committee after he referred the matter to the committee for investigation.

The opinion piece prompted the DA’s chief whip John Steenhuisen to issue a scathing statement accusing the institute of having an “obsessive preoccupation” with the party’s internal political and ideological conversations. Steenhuisen called for the IRR to either join the DA to get involved in its internal matters or to form its own political party.

The IRR said in a statement on Monday: “The need for such a campaign became painfully clear over the past week when factional warfare within the DA flared up in public. The aim of the campaign is to highlight what should be done to ensure that opposition parties remain a check on a dangerous government implementing destructive policies.”

The institute said it was, in fact, its job to “interfere” in the affairs of business, government, and political parties “all the time to win their support for policies that will ensure South Africa’s success and the prosperity of all its people”.

Pretorius reiterated his views that the DA was without direction and identity. He said the reaction from the party’s senior public representatives to his opinion piece had “made it painfully clear how necessary it is for ordinary South Africans – and think tanks like the IRR – to intervene in the affairs of the DA”.

The DA leaders he referred to included Steenhuisen, DA MPs Phumzile van Damme and Luyolo Mphithi, and Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba, who had all come out to reject Pretorius’ piece on social media.

According to Pretorius, the IRR firmly believed that the DA must:

• Expel racist leaders from the party;
• Stamp out corruption in the party;
• Stop race-based policies;
• End its alliance with the Economic Freedom Fighters; and
• Appoint good leaders.

The IRR called for South Africans to support their campaign to ensure that opposition politics in the country were “saved from self-destructing” by SMSing “voice” to 32823.

The DA wasn’t available for comment at the time of writing. The story will be updated once the party responds.

Here's what some DA leaders had to say on Twitter on the IRR’s #SaveTheOpposition campaign:

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