Exchanges on Twitter offer glimpse into yawning fissures in DA

Johannesburg – The gloves came off on Monday when DA MP Phumzile van Damme took former party leader Helen Zille to task over a tax revolt the Western Cape premier is advocating.

Van Damme did not spare former party head of policy Gwen Ngwenya when she accused her of supporting something she hadn’t actually read about.

The drama started when the feisty Van Damme, who is among those distancing the DA from Zille’s idea, said in a series of tweets that she would not be campaigning only “for my & many others’ work to be thrown in our faces & made to seem pointless”.

She charged at Zille, who penned a column on the subject that was published on Monday, saying her column did not provide clarity on the valid questions she and many others had asked.

“I also find it odd that nowhere in your column do you encourage people to use the power of their vote to bring about change,” Van Damme said.

The former premier hit back saying she had “kept my powder dry while the wilfully ignorant trolls pummelled me on distortions of what I actually said about the #TaxRevolt”.

She then referred to a link to her article. “As my research continues, there will be more,” Zille said.

Responding to one of her Twitter followers about possible outrage that could ensue, an unperturbed Zille said: “Yes, I’m waiting for the virtue-signalling trolls to get going. Bread and circuses.”

Van Damme retorted that she was not what Zille had described in her tweet about trolls. “It would be insulting if you dismissed healthy debate & questions from your colleagues as thus. All ideas must be weighed up, thoroughly assessed & debated. No one is the oracle & has the monopoly on ideas in the DA I joined & am a member of,” she said.

Van Damme also said it was a pity that the debate on Zille’s proposal happened on Twitter as this had not provided the DA with an opportunity to discuss the issue. 

She then asked Zille to answer questions she had posed to her last week, which included whether Western Cape residents would be encouraged to take part in a tax revolt.

Van Damme also hit out at Ngwenya when she commented on the controversial debate. Ngwenya had written on her wall that “the soundness of a tax revolt aside, it’s based on a premise where corrupt get off scot-free and party that facilitated corruption won election”.

“1st prize obviously is prosecutions & changed voter behaviour. This is about what happens should those two things NOT happen. Not difficult,” she said.

Van Damme found her tweet interesting and asked her to provide some facts to a few simple questions she had sent to Zille. She also said she assumed Ngwenya considered Zille’s idea thoroughly before supporting it.

“I’ll wait & take a non-response as you not actually having the answers because it’s just a populist idea that hasn’t been fully developed or thought out.”

Responding to someone who commented about the inability to read, Ngwenya said many could read for comprehension. “I have not articulated a position on a tax revolt. It’s risky, it’s interesting. I like to take my time and read. But I do understand the parameters of the debate which I felt important to reiterate.”

Van Damme laughed at her colleague saying “you’re advocating for something you haven’t actually read about. Nidlala kabi ngabantu (you play with people), Gwen.” 

Responding to someone who said she was the reason the DA was “ANClite”, she said she was fine with a label if she stood up for the values her party espoused and was not lapping up populist ideas without thought.

Political Bureau

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