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.
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. Hard to tell whether the country is on the cusp of burning itself to ashes, or the brink of renewal. Maybe ashes is renewal.— Gwen Ngwenya (@GwenNgwenya) May 6, 2018
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."
Let me make one thing VERY clear. Mmusi Maimane is my Leader. He has my support 100%. We work as a party for ALL South Africans. We have discussions and debates BECAUSE we believe in building a society where ALL South Africans have equal opportunities. We are UNITED for ALL SA!— Natasha Mazzone MP (@Natasha9Mazzone) May 6, 2018
I stand 100% with my Leader Mmusi Maimane. I too will not pander to racists. Our mission is to create a South Africa for ALL who live here. Divided we are weak, united, we are unstoppable. South Africa first, ALWAYS 🇿🇦 https://t.co/Kosy547BEA— Natasha Mazzone MP (@Natasha9Mazzone) May 6, 2018
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.
I firmly stand by comments I made on Freedom Day. SA remains deeply unequal, with black SAns locked out of opportunities. We must focus on solving the problem. Liberation of one race is not the enslaving of another - all of us, black & white, must come together to build #1SA4All— Mmusi Maimane (@MmusiMaimane) May 6, 2018
The racists from all backgrounds will seek to https://t.co/s3dHlvLWuE still remains deeply unequal on the basis of race.I won't pander to the racists, will work with All to ensure that SA belongs to all who live in it Black&White.Let's dismantle our yesterday& build our tomorrow— Mmusi Maimane (@MmusiMaimane) May 6, 2018
DA spokesperson Refiloe Nt'sekhe could not be reached for comment.