The internal conflicts within the Democratic Alliance (DA) have once again come to the surface as MP Phumzile Van Damme has accused leader John Steenhuisen of not being entirely honest about the circumstances surrounding her “sabattical.”
Van Damme revealed on Friday, 4 December 2020, that she had been granted a three-month sabbatical by Steenhuisen, despite not having asked for it. Van Damme said she had been open about her chronic illness and continued with her DA parliamentary duties, while already on sick leave for three months.
Steenhuisen has removed Van Damme as the DA’s shadow minister of Communications, replacing her with Zakhele Mbhele, who was previously deputy shadow minister of Small Business. This prompted questions as to what would happen to Van Damme in the DA, once her sabbatical came to an end.
Van Damme: I won’t let Steenhuisen’s ‘fibs about me stand’
On Sunday, 6 December 2020, Van Damme tweeted up a storm, detailing her interactions with Steenhuisen, which ultimately led to her sabbatical. This was spurred by a television interview the leader had been doing on eNCA’s Power to Truth that same evening.
“Watching (JJ Tabane) ’s show and I won’t let fibs about me stand. In our telephonic conversation, John Steenhuisen did not make the “sabbatical,” optional. He insisted. Said I need it. I told him I don’t. He said I do & will make his own assessment around my health on 30 March 2021,” she tweeted.
When asked by Tabane about the tweets, Steenhuisen said: “I do not engage Miss Van Damme via Twitter or the media, I will deal with her myself.”
Van Damme said while she could simply leave the DA, she chooses to stay and challenge the party leader’s decision on principle.
The DA’s Chief Whip in Parliament Natasha Mazzone insisted that the decision was for Van Damme’s own good and would give her time to focus on her health.
“…her continued ill-health is something that is well known and well-documented and part of leadership is knowing when someone in your caucus or in your party is suffering. She will be able to continue coming to Parliament with pleasure but as the shadow Cabinet stands at the moment – she is not a member of the shadow Cabinet,” she said to Eyewitness News (EWN).