DA insists Phumzile van Damme is not being sidelined despite forced sabbatical

Phumzile van Damme was the party’s communications shadow minister but was reshuffled out of the shadow cabinet and replaced by Zakhele Mbhele after being put on sabbatical by the party’s leader John Steenhuisen.

FILE: DA leader John Steenhuisen and MP Phumzile van Damme. Picture: EWN.

CAPE TOWN – The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Parliament on Monday said its outspoken MP Phumzile van Damme was not being sidelined and would continue her duties as an ordinary parliamentarian, but with fewer responsibilities.

Van Damme was the party’s communications shadow minister but was reshuffled out of the shadow cabinet and replaced by Zakhele Mbhele after being put on sabbatical by the party’s leader John Steenhuisen.

ALSO READ: Zakhele Mbhele replaces Phumzile van Damme as DA Shadow Comms Minister

The DA’s chief whip Natasha Mazzone said Van Damme remained a member of Parliament.

Mazzone said there had been a full cabinet reshuffle within the party’s parliamentary caucus, but the numbers would not change at all.

On the contentious issue of Van Damme’s sabbatical, Mazzone said this was only in reference to the shadow cabinet.

“Phumzile has a debilitating chronic illness and she has been very brave and honest about documenting it on social media and bringing awareness to illnesses that people had kept quiet in the past,” Mazzone said.

“She takes a sabbatical from the shadow cabinet because the shadow cabinet obviously has extra work that it has to do, and there are extra pressures that are placed on the shadow minister.

“So, what we are doing is taking away those extra pressures so that she is able to concentrate on her health and hopefully come back feeling a lot better than she did before,” she added.

ALSO READ: DA insists Phumzile van Damme sabbatical is for her own good

While Van Damme could not be reached for comment on Monday, the MP took to social media and revealed that Steenhuisen had instructed her to take a sabbatical for health reasons, without her asking for it.

Van Damme had also been on sick leave for three months.

Listen to DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone's interview on Radio 702 below:

Download the EWN app to your iOS or Android device.