Max du Preez

Dear Helen, please call it off

2017-06-06 08:12
Helen Zille.

Helen Zille.

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Dear Helen

I know you are a fighter, otherwise you would not have achieved so much as a journalist, an activist and a politician.

But sometimes a real fighter’s best option is to retreat, to stand back, because even if you win the upcoming battle, you will be the biggest loser.

The price of such a victory is just too high, mostly for yourself. Your ego and pride might survive, but your legacy and the project on which you had spent so much time and energy will be compromised.

I have known you for many years, from our early years as cub reporters. It irritated me that so many of your political opponents and people on social media called you a racist and a white supremacist.

Nothing I know about you supports such a charge. On the contrary.

I can imagine how these slurs must have hurt and angered you. You did not deserve this after your honourable career and many sacrifices.

But your tweets on the legacies of colonialism a few months ago were a huge mistake. They were bound to cause a huge political storm in our present political climate. How did you not realise that?

It is not relevant any longer to discuss the merits of your tweets here. Let me just say this: even someone with a very limited intelligence and understanding knows that some of the technologies and infrastructure that came with colonial occupation can be of good use to us now in our liberated society.

The fact that you felt you had to make this obvious point on Twitter suggests that you meant something else, something more.

Instead of quickly stating that your first tweet was a mistake and you were sorry about it when you saw the initial reactions, you spent the last few months defending your views ad nauseam, attacked your critics aggressively and even started playing white victim.

How did it happen that you developed such a huge blind spot after so many years in active politics; that you could not foresee that most South Africans would feel offended and insulted?

Did political power do this to you?

Since the storm was unleashed, you have spent much energy defending your own pride and ego and divided your party in the process.

Just last night I was reading on social media how some of your supporters say: Helen is right, I’m also sick of apologising that I’m white and that my white ancestors brought civilisation to Africa.

That’s perhaps not what you’ve said, but that’s how it’s been understood by many, white and black.

We are in the middle of a fundamental shift in South African politics.

Never before since 1994 has there been such a chance for the political opposition to move into the vacuum created by the ANC’s scandals and infighting.

The citizens of South Arica are clamouring for an alternative to Zuma and his ilk.

You have single-handedly made sure that the party you helped build, could not play that role fully.

Mmusi Maimane should have been leading this process with conviction, energy and the full support of his party.

Instead your conduct undermined him and he is now being called a weakling under the thumb of the white madam.

Of course this is unfair, but in the rough and tumble of daily politics, perception quickly becomes reality.

How do you want to be remembered, Helen?

As the immovable politician who wanted to protect her pride and ego using legal tricks and rules and shot her own party in the foot in the process?

Or as the leader that was big enough to retreat strategically so as to allow the kind of politics that she had fought for, to flourish?

Something big is happening in our society, Helen. The people are fighting back against corruption, state capture, abuse of power and maladministration like we have never seen before.

Your stubborn defence of what you appear to see as your “honour” is hampering this process.

If you want history to respect the role that you have played over the last few years to broaden and deepen our democracy, you will stop your stubborn insistence to challenge the DA leadership who feel you have damaged the party enough.

Please, call it all off. Make a gracious speech and retire before you do more damage to yourself, your party and the exciting efforts of so many citizens to rewrite the compact between state and citizen. 

Yours sincerely,


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