Democratic Alliance (DA) Federal Council chair Helen Zille has rejected claims that the party is only for white people. She was speaking at the Cape Town Press Club.

Zille says this claim is used by political opponents to attack the party. She says the majority of its leadership are black people. “The FedEx (Federal Executive) is 80% black.  If you look at our provincial leaders, eight out of nine of provincial leaders are black South Africans. Our leader was a black South African and yet people call us a white party. Every single bit of narrative that our political enemies put out there, they never challenge our policies. They never challenge our track record. “

Zille says the party is against using race as a “proxy” for political convenience. She says past imbalances must be rectified to benefit the majority and not only elite with access to political power.

“The only way to uplift black people who are poor is to use disadvantage as a proxy for disadvantaged. It is amazing that we can do that. We do that every month when we pay social grants. We do not say you get social grants if you black or white. If you are disadvantaged you get social grants. So we prove ourselves by using disadvantage itself as a proxy. So we are not against redress. We are massively for redress. “

Zille says she believes former party leader Mmusi Maimane was misled by some within the party – or outside -and made to feel he needed to take a stand against being her, quote, “puppet.”

She has described Maimane as a “good guy”, but she says he was advised incorrectly to serve the interests of those who were against her. “They said to him you know-crush Zille so you don’t have to be a puppet anymore. And that’s where the proxy came from and that is why the polling has been saying because people think I am your puppet. So the bottom line is that he is a very good guy but I think he was wrongly advised for a very long time.”