John Steenhuisen vs Mmusi Maimane: Inside the former colleagues’ heated exchange

DA leader John Steenhuisen was severely criticised by the party's former leader Mmusi Maimane. File photo.
DA leader John Steenhuisen was severely criticised by the party's former leader Mmusi Maimane. File photo.
Image: Trevor Samson

The squabble between former colleagues John Steenhuisen and Mmusi Maimane continues to play out in public following a back-and-forth spat over who was to blame for the DA’s poor electoral showing in the 2019 national and provincial elections.

It started after Steenhuisen told Sunday Times the DA was considering to work with the ANC should there be no outright winner in 2024 elections.

Steenhuisen has previously served as Maimane's chief whip until he quit as party leader in October 2019.

In the interview Steenhuisen said the DA was keen to work with a “reformist” in the ANC, such as President Cyril Ramaphosa, to lift SA out of the doldrums.

According to Steenhuisen, the DA was anticipating an eventual split in the governing party which would allow those who share the same values as the official opposition to come together.

He also blamed the party’s ineffective campaign in the 2019 national and provincial elections on former leader Maimane, saying that was the reason the party lost support.

However, Maimane did not take the shift of blame lightly, saying Steenhuisen and DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille were the real culprits behind the failure.

Maimane said the DA was considering a possible coalition with the ANC as “an admission of defeat” and in “recognition that they can’t grow”.

“To grow as a political party you must be honest with the people about the history of this country. Privilege exists. We have to diversify the benches of parliament. We have to work on land equity and justice. We have to see people, their pain, and we can’t be colour-blind.”

Maimane said Steenhuisen and Zille do not care about fixing the problems facing the nation.

“They care about the Western Cape and maintaining power there. They have given up on the national project and are going back to the historic voters of the party and abandoning the rest,” he said.

Steenhuisen clapped back at Maimane’s statement. Speaking on SABC News on Monday, he said there was no difference between what he said about the ANC and what Maimane had said before about the realignment of SA politics when he was the leader of the party.

“If anybody takes one of Mr Maimane’s speeches over the course of the last term of his leadership, they would see he said exactly the same thing. I quote: ‘Maimane extended a hand of friendship to the ANC leaders speaking against the state of their party, adding the DA was open to working with them in the future in a new realigned political landscape,’” Steenhuisen said.

He said Maimane might be suffering from a “slight case of amnesia”.

“I think there may be a slight case of amnesia that has set in but it’s certainly nothing different that has been said by both Mr Maimane and the previous leader, Mrs Zille, in taking about the realignment of SA politics.”

Steenhuisen denied that the possible coalition was a sign of defeat, saying the DA was confident in itself to bring the ANC below 50% at the polls and see it lose it electoral majority.

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