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Expelled DA member Nqaba Bhanga still has Helen Zille firmly in his sights

Expelled DA member Nqaba Bhanga still has Helen Zille firmly in his sights
Nqaba Bhanga (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Expelled DA member and former Eastern Cape leader Nqaba Bhanga says he has no problems with the party, but only with its Federal Chair, Helen Zille, whom he likened to the late Robert Mugabe. The party has accused Bhanga of deflecting from the real issues of his misdemeanours.

Last week, the DA’s Federal Legal Council expelled four of its members, including its former Eastern Cape leader Nqaba Bhanga.

Bhanga had been suspended in June after calling Federal Council Chair Helen Zille a “racist” and accusing her of working with the ANC in a ploy to take him down, which Zille and the DA dismissed as baseless. He then accused Zille of keeping a dossier of all black leaders in the organisation.

Read more in Daily Maverick: DA leader in the Eastern Cape legislature served with suspension notice after Facebook post calling Helen Zille a racist

Bhanga, however, believes his case was not handled fairly as the same sanction was not applied to Zille for her social media posts

“They say I brought the name of the party into disrepute, the very same Helen who did the same thing I did, but she is not being punished … She has been writing on social media for a number of years … there were no consequences,” he said. 

In 2017, the DA charged Zille, then premier of the Western Cape and a prolific Twitter user, with bringing the party into disrepute for her tweet that said colonialism was not all bad. She was temporarily discharged from party duties.

Read more in Daily Maverick: DA’s social media meltdown: Helen Zille rebuked by party behind the scenes, but wider battle rages

In 2019, as an ordinary member of the DA, she again landed in hot water with her party for a tweet that claimed some South Africans were enjoying #BlackPrivilege because they were looting state coffers. It was reported that the federal legal commission recommended that the party not take action against Zille for her tweets to avoid in-fighting spilling out into the public domain.

She was elected as Federal Council chair later that year. 

Bhanga claimed that Zille wielded too much power in the party.

“I am not fighting with the DA as a party, I was directing my issues to individuals. [The late former Zimbabwean president] Robert Mugabe was a great leader but because he stayed so long in office it did not work. I think Helen Zille’s problems are the same as Robert Mugabe of being in a position for too long and you get so used to it and become an institution. She was great in building the DA to what it is but she must understand that staying longer is a problem.

“A good dancer must know when to leave the stage and when you look at Mmusi Maimane, Makashule Gana and many people who have left, whatever happened, she is the centre of it.

“I must be honest, I am not broken, I have done my part and I am a strong politician and when the time is right, I will announce what I will be doing,” Bhanga said.

Bhanga says the DA’s decision to expel him could affect its electoral prospects in the province.

“We will see it on the voting day. I think they made a mistake, but let us see what will happen next year because when you deal with me you are not only dealing with a small boy. You are dealing with an organic, well-rounded politician with the experience that I have.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Many tough questions await Nelson Mandela Bay’s DA Mayor Nqaba Bhanga after birthday car crash

“When I was the leader of the DA in the Eastern Cape, we had the most stable and united province and I am very proud of that. We were able to deal with difficult questions that we had to confront about having a nonracial society.

“We expanded the DA to rural communities across the Eastern Cape, where the DA in the province had a footprint in each and every corner. I have served in Nelson Mandela Bay [metro], as the mayor. It is unfortunate that it is the end of the road. but I am not apologetic about the things I said.”

Bhanga, a former ANC and Congress of the People (Cope) member, joined the DA in 2014. He was first elected as DA Eastern Cape leader in 2017 and was re-elected unopposed at the provincial congress in 2020. 

‘Deflecting from real issues’ 

DA spokesperson Solly Malatsi strongly disagreed with Bhanga’s assertions.  

“Mr Bhanga is deflecting from the real reasons that ultimately led to his termination of membership. He has a history of misdemeanours which characterised his tenure in the party. The party has been more generous to him than any other member in providing support to help overcome his individual struggles and he was always treated fairly at all times,” he said. 

Following the news of Bhanga’s expulsion, the DA issued a statement saying that it was committed to maintaining the highest standards of integrity and ethical conduct among its public representatives. The party stated that Bhanga had made “false allegations of racism”. 

“Accordingly, the Federal Executive resolved to terminate the membership of four public representatives from various provinces after following all the necessary internal processes… 

“The Democratic Alliance takes decisive action to address any instances of misconduct that falls below the requirements of our rules and constitution, and in line with our commitment to ethical conduct in public life. 

“The DA remains steadfast in its dedication to a clean and principled political landscape,” the statement reads. 

Following Bhanga’s claims that Zille was investigating black leaders, Zille told Daily Maverick in June, “I am not investigating any black DA members. I am not investigating any members as it is not my role or function to do so.” DM

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