Eastern Cape DA’s Nqaba Bhanga suspended after calling Zille a ‘most racist person’
The Democratic Alliance (DA) says it suspended its leader in the Eastern Cape legislature, Nqaba Bhanga, after he made ‘false or slanderous claims of racism’.
Nqaba Bhanga was suspended after he posted a rambling Facebook entry in which he called the party’s chairperson of its federal council, Helen Zille, a “most racist person”.
This was immediately followed by letters from party headquarters indicating their intention to suspend him.
On Monday, provincial party leader Andrew Whitfield said in a statement that the DA “rejects the evidence-free slurs directed by Nqaba Bhanga at the Chairperson of the Federal Council, Helen Zille. Bhanga’s claims were recorded in a poorly written post on Facebook which he had to edit multiple times. These claims fall flat at the first and most simple hurdle.”
Parts of Bhanga’s Facebook post, which has since been edited, claimed that Zille was in Gqeberha on Friday last week as part of what Whitfield described as a “far-fetched conspiracy against him”. According to the post, this was about her investigating how a former municipal official had bought a R6-million house for him.
“The DA has confirmed that Zille was not even in the Eastern Cape at the time,” Whitfield said. He added that the only body in the DA that could do this type of investigation is the Federal Legal Commission (FLC).
“It is difficult to speculate on what could have caused Bhanga to post such obviously and verifiably false claims on Facebook, rather than raising them within the structures of the party. Sadly, this latest incident is part of a deeply unfortunate pattern of destructive personal behaviour.
“The DA leadership have on several occasions made interventions and have attempted to support him to deal with the underlying issues. Bhanga has however reneged on his commitments to these interventions.
“While the DA’s commitment to the rule of law means that we always take bona fide allegations seriously, that same commitment means that we also have zero tolerance for false or slanderous claims of racism. As we have seen before, spurious claims of racism are damaging and cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.
“The simple truth is that Bhanga has at no stage provided any evidence to support his claims. Unless this changes, the DA will treat this as an egregious case of slander against the party and take all appropriate steps, including through the FLC.
“Rather than lashing out at the party that has shown him nothing but compassion and support throughout his personal struggles, we once again encourage Bhanga to seek appropriate help,” Whitfield said.
The verbatim post written by Bhanga reads: “Helen zille is the most racist person she got of a file of all back people. Yesterday I learnt how she got information to try to destroy mnrthe ANC. I’m hurt to know that you were working with the the ANC against me ,”
Bhanga said yesterday that he was not allowed to speak to the media in terms of his suspension.
Whitfield said the DA’s Provincial Executive Committee took the decision to suspend Bhanga after meeting at 2pm on Tuesday.
He said the party could not suspend Bhanga from the legislature as this “was a separate process”.
According to the suspension letter served on Bhanga, he had sent a WhatsApp message to Whitfield on Sunday night stating: “I am sorry for what I have done to you and the party. I accept the suspension.”
The letter adds that if Bhanga can produce evidence to back up his claims, the PEC will reconsider.
Bhanga argued that he should not be suspended from the party on the grounds that he was bringing the DA into disrepute, as he was attacking a person and not the party.
But the PEC was not convinced.
“The PEC found, based on your conduct on social media and your comments in the mainstream media that your continued participation in party political activities may cause embarrassment or possible prejudice to the party and/or impact negatively on the image of the party and/or bring the good name of the party into disrepute.
“As such, on consideration by the PEC it was found unanimously that these grounds are satisfied and justified the issue of a notice of intention to suspend,” the letter continues.
In terms of his suspension, he has been barred from speaking on behalf of the DA or expressing an “opinion or view in his personal capacity that deviates from party policies”.
He is further “prohibited from expressing any public opinion on any disciplinary or mediation proceedings”.
Zille has denied all of Bhanga’s claims and said on Sunday that she was trying to get Bhanga to go into rehabilitation for his “alcohol addiction”, as he promised he would do.
“He has been trying to get out of this commitment, and only falling deeper into the hole of addiction,” she said.
In August 2021, during curfew in the Covid lockdown, Bhanga, who was then the executive mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay, was involved in a car accident in Algoa Park, in which two people in another vehicle died. Bhanga sustained a fractured wrist and had to undergo surgery to stop internal bleeding. DM