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Steenhuisen declines to comment on what Zille's tweet means for DA unity

DA interim leader John Steenhuisen referred Eyewitness News to a statement he issued on Tuesday in which he said Helen Zille's comments on racists laws were not true, but would not comment further on what it meant for the party.

FILE: Helen Zille. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Democratic Alliance (DA) interim leader John Steenhuisen has declined to comment on how he planned to keep the party united after Federal Chairperson Helen Zille tweeted that there were some laws in democratic South Africa that were worse than those under apartheid.

Steenhuisen referred Eyewitness News to a statement he issued on Tuesday in which he said Zille's comments were not true, but would not comment further on what it meant for the party.

In Steenhuisen's statement, he indicated "Helen also made the comment that there are more racist laws now than there were under apartheid. This is not true, and I can’t see any evidence for it."

"I have yesterday had a conversation with her directly and expressed my views on the matter. Helen has referred her tweet to the party structures to determine whether she has breached any rules or regulations of the party," Steenhuisen continued.

It's now being reported that that DA MP Hlanganani Gumbi and Gauteng MPL Khume Ramulifho had filed formal complaints with the party's disciplinary body.

Gumbi also tweeted his disagreement with Zille's comments, saying "Apartheid was a crime again humanity. It formalized racism with some of the most disgusting laws on earth. Democratic South Africa comes nothing close to this crude system intend to devide, supress and exploit. Saying this, shouldn’t even be necessary."

Other DA members also expressed their views on Zille's tweet, with DA MP Mbali Ntuli saying Zille's views were one of the reasons she was running for the party’s top position.

Ntuli said on Twitter that she was flooded with messages from people asking her to speak out against Zille, but added concerns must be raised with the DA’s interim leader.

The DA's Shadow Minister of Communications, Phumzile Van Damme, also took a stand on Twitter against Zille.

Van Damme said: "You tweet outrageous things and then backpedal. Not a single person who read your Tweet understood it to mean [something about being relaxed and unperturbed]. And it is not the first time you have publicly cast aspersions on my character. I saw your call, but since you raised this publicly, I want to discuss it here also."