Leader of the Democratic Alliance(DA), Mmusi Maimane announced that the Western Cape Premier and former DA leader Helen Zille has been suspended. This came after Zille’s controversial tweets about colonialism earlier this year. The announcement was made on Saturday at a media conference held in Kempton Park.
The tweets in question were posted on the 16th March 2017 and suggested that colonialism may have had some positive results. This naturally caused an uproar as South Africa is a country with a tragic past filled with racial oppression and segregation.
People reacted angrily and stated that Helen Zille is embracing systems of oppression. Helen Zille has since issued an apology, stating that she had not been trying to defend colonialism, as the tweet may have implied.
The same day, Mmusi Maimane issued a statement via Twitter- he wanted to make it clear that Zille’s views were not the views of the party.
These comments amplified the challenges faced by the Democratic Alliance- a party that has roots in the white liberal opposition to apartheid. Maimane stated that he and Zille hold fundamentally different attitudes about the Democratic Alliance’s mission, and he further claimed that Zille’s comments undermine the party’s reconciliation project. The party has made some progress in terms of public support in the elections, but it still falls short of the ruling African National Congress(ANC).
Racial relations is still a very sensitive topic in the rainbow nation, and these comments have damaged the party in the eyes of the public.
Zille responded to the DA suspension by stating that the decision by Mmusi Maimane to suspend her does not comply with the party’s own constitution. She claimed, via a statement on Twitter, that she has been given until the 6th of June to provide reasons why she should not be suspended, contrary to Maimane’s statement that implied that the suspension is already operative. She has also refuted the claim by Maimane that she had not apologised for the statement.
Zille will continue to carry out her duties as Premier of the Western Cape.
The DA issued a statement that Zille has been informed by the DA Federal Executive that she will be temporarily suspended from all party activities until the conclusion of the disciplinary hearing. Helen Zille recently tweeted that the DA has now changed its statement: