07/05/2018 16:44 SAST | Updated 07/05/2018 16:44 SAST

DA Members Rally Behind Maimane Over White Privilege Claims

Senior DA members have come out in support of Maimane, or have denied reports that his own council took him to task over his comments on white privilege.

Mmusi Maimane, leader of the DA.
Sumaya Hisham / Reuters
Mmusi Maimane, leader of the DA.

A number of senior DA members have rallied behind their party president, or denied reports that his senior colleagues had taken him to task over comments he made on white privilege.

City Press reported at the weekend that DA leader Mmusi Maimane had come under fire for his comments that "white privilege and black poverty" must be confronted, which he made during a rally in Soshanguve on Freedom Day.

The newspaper reported that at a party caucus meeting, the DA's deputy chief whip Mike Waters, chief whip John Steenhuisen and MP Natasha Mazzone allegedly took Maimane on, reportedly frightened of alienating white voters ahead of the 2019 national elections.

But a number of party officials have since come to his defence.

DA MP and head of policy Gwen Ngwenya took to Twitter to say that reports that Maimane was reprimanded by his own party were "hearsay".

"Thanks to journalists who write pieces based on hearsay; it's another race debate or 'war' as they call it. Certainly not the caucus meeting I was at," she wrote.

Mazzone, who was specifically mentioned in the report, said she fully supported Maimane.

"Let me make one thing very clear. Mmusi Maimane is my leader. He has my support 100 percent. We work as a party for all South Africans," she tweeted.

Mazzone herself came under fire on social media for her comments on privilege, tweeting that her father, who she described as "dark", "built himself up from nothing to make a good life for his family".

Speaking to radio station 702 on Monday, Mazzone defended her comments.

"I had a beautiful home, I had a full stomach of food, I went to a school, I had parents [who] were always around me, every opportunity in life was given to me — and that to me describes what white privilege was... I was born during apartheid South Africa... and at that time, the black children my age were certainly not experiencing what I was experiencing. I was offered many, many more opportunities," she told radio show host Bongani Bingwa.

"It would be completely unjust and unfair to say that my father in any way suffered as much as any black person did in this country."

TimesLive reported that DA Eastern Cape leader Nqaba Bhanga said Maimane's comments on white privilege were correct.

"Mmusi is correct‚ there is white privilege and the fact that white people continue to live better‚ and the inequality is that the majority of black people live in poverty and in squalor," he reportedly said.

Maimane also took to Twitter to defend his comments.

DA spokesperson Refiloe Nt'sekhe could not be reached for comment.