Guest Column

Helen, I still don’t believe you

2017-06-14 15:01
Helen Zille. Foto: Nardus Engelbrecht, Gallo Images

Helen Zille. Foto: Nardus Engelbrecht, Gallo Images (Nardus Engelbrecht)

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Tshidi Madia

‘Sorry seems to be the hardest word’ is a song title but former Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille proved that not only is it difficult, it’s damn near impossible.

You fell foul of party leader Mmusi Maimane, some in your own party and many across the country for your tweets praising some aspects of colonialism – our painful history and its legacy that still lives with us in the form of spatial residential living, inequality, poverty and racism.

You went on to spend over three months defending those views on every platform made available to you;  from radio shows, television interviews and even contributing to open letter sections of newspapers and it seems you only realised now, in June, that you not only offended some of us but also caused a lot of hurt.

But following your supposed “genuine apology” for the self-created “colonial-gate saga”, you have again left the nation feeling pity for the current leader and utter shock at your failure to comprehend the pain you caused.

The press conference left me even more annoyed because I too could not find the sincerity in that “genuine apology” you brought us to listen to. It was really a non-apology. It was rather a horror show of yet another leader in this country failing to grasp the gravity of their actions. 

Let me help you understand in your own words why you shouldn’t have bothered.

You said: “There are some things that the origin of the speaker makes a difference to what is heard.”

So only because you are white, we took offense.

You also said: “If anybody goes to my timeline [on twitter] you’ll see how rude people are to me… maybe I get a little less sensitive than I need to be.”


Also: “You may or may not know that a very large number of my relatives were murdered in the genocide of the Holocaust of Germany and nine direct uncles and aunts died in the death camps of Germany and were very lucky to survive as refugees.”

Why are you telling us this? As if we are not still grappling with the remnants of an oppressive system that saw many of us from the continent as sub human?

As a friend recently reminded you – for more than three hundred years every institution, law, and body of thought in South Africa divided people by race deliberately. In case you missed it, we too have a long history of pain and suffrage. Our forefathers died defending their birthright from colonialists who thought it was okay to chase them off their land, enslave them and sell them for pittance.

You said: “In a sensitively race divided society it’s just true that who you are determines how what you say is taken up.”

But this is another excuse, Helen? Worse still, this is you using your whiteness to blackmail us.

“Perhaps because of the stuff I have been through…”

You threw yourself a pity party at the nation’s expense, failing to remember you are a politician and a leader and that the role comes with many knocks. You used the opportunity to apologise and to again defend your actions of bringing the DA into disrepute.

You have failed to convince ordinary South Africans why you embarrassed Maimane in the first instance and then followed it up with that apology, which just did more damage to race relations in this country.

I have failed to understand why you would risk all that is supposed to be your legacy of building a non-racial party just to prove that you are right.

So enjoy your pity party, but please leave us out of it.

- Tshidi Madia is a politics reporter at News24.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. 

Read more on:    mmusi maimane  |  helen zille  |  da


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