The DA’s parliamentary caucus was divided on how it should contribute to the debate on femicide, ultimately resulting in four MPs walking out.
On the same day that thousands gathered outside Parliament to protest against gender-based violence, the opposition party’s members of Parliament had an intense debate on how the party should respond to the discourse.
Nazley Sharif proposed that the DA caucus make its mark by shutting down Parliament in a demonstration that would result in the party’s MPs sitting in the middle of the National Assembly chamber.
Those who supported the motion argued that they felt that it could not be “business as usual” and that the DA needed to take a “radical stance” on an ongoing crisis.
But the proposal to shut down Parliament was countered by another from party leader Mmusi Maimane who suggested the caucus instead display placards of support in the House.
In the end the two proposals were put to a vote with Maimane’s receiving an overwhelming majority.
Those who opposed shutting down Parliament are said to have argued that the party was one of law and order, which previously had been critical of others, particularly the EFF, flouting Parliament’s rules.
An additional argument was that the party would be left red faced if MPs were to shut down Parliament on the very day the National Assembly was debating the jobs crisis, a motion bought to the house by Maimane.
Sharif, DA youth chairperson Luyolo Mphithi, Phumzile van Damme and Hannah Winkler are all said to have broken down in tears before walking out of the caucus meeting.
Some MPs are now calling for disciplinary action to be taken against those who walked out.
“It is going to be a long five years for them if they cannot take losing a simple debate, which is resolved through a democratic process of voting. We all have things which resonate with us and that we are passionate about but it is still a professional working environment where we must all behave in a befitting manner,” one MP said.
Those who supported the proposal to shut down Parliament told City Press that the caucus appeared to be “dismissive” of the plight of women in South Africa and that the party was risking becoming wholly “irrelevant” on crucial matters by failing to react demonstrably when serious matters arose.
One of the MPs who walked out said it was not planned or that it was because the vote was lost, but rather that it was an emotional matter which required them to take a moment to gather themselves.
Meanwhile, panic has spread after the party’s chief executive, Paul Boughey, informed staff on Tuesday that an undisclosed number of people could lose their jobs.
“We will be embarking on a restructuring process which may see a reduction in our staff headcount in the coming months. We will be consulting certain employees who may be affected by this process, following the principles as required by the Labour Relations Act,” a memorandum sent to staff read.
“This is unfortunate and we acknowledge it is a difficult time.”
He said the party had been examining several options to streamline operations. This had led to the decision to embark on a restructuring process.
“We will ensure that this process is carried out with the highest level of sensitivity and concluded in a reasonable manner.”
Staff were told that bonuses would not be paid this year given the party’s dire financial situation. Staff would instead be granted an extended leave period from November to January.
The move comes ahead of a review which is under way following the party’s dismal performance at the May 8 polls. The outcome of the review – which will make recommendations on crucial steps the DA will have to take – will be made known next month.
The DA struggled to raise funds ahead of the election, leaving its bank balance nearing the red.
The last meeting of the party’s federal executive is alleged to have discussed the possibility of moving forward the national elective congress – which is scheduled to be in 2021, the same year as local government elections – to next year, but the proposal was dismissed with one of the reasons given that the party could not afford it.