Colonialism tweet: Mkhwebane 'pleased' with court ruling dismissing Zille application to have report set aside

2019-11-05 16:57
Former DA leader Helen Zille. (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

Former DA leader Helen Zille. (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

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Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said on Tuesday she welcomed the Gauteng High Court's dismissal of former Western Cape premier Helen Zille's application to have her report on Zille's controversial colonialism tweets reviewed and set aside.

Acting Judge Malebo Habedi dismissed the application with costs, to be paid up to the point Zille vacated her office as premier, Mkhwebane's office said.

"Handing down judgment, the judge found that the application and determination of issues were moot and academic since the Public Protector's remedial action had directed the provincial legislature to take action against Ms Zille while she was still premier," Public Protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said in a statement.

"Judge Habedi noted that, at the time the case was argued in court, it was already obvious that Ms Zille was no longer premier. Having concluded that the case had been overtaken by events, Judge Habedi still found that Ms Zille failed to establish sufficient grounds for the review and that the Public Protector had properly reasoned her findings and remedial action and that those reasons were sufficient to substantiate the findings."

Last year, the Public Protector found that Zille's tweet about colonialism was in violation of the Constitution.

The tweet, sent in 2017, read: "For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, etc."

Mkhwebane found that Zille's conduct was tantamount to improper conduct in terms of the Constitution as well as violating the executive ethics code.

Zille's office at the time issued a statement in response to Mkhwebane's findings, saying the premier would take the report on judicial review.

Segalwe said the finding followed an investigation after a complaint had been received from Khaya Magaxa of the Western Cape provincial legislature. He had charged that Zille had failed to act in a manner that was consistent with the integrity of the high office she occupied.

Mkhwebane is currently on a countrywide roadshow to workshop provincial executive councils on the provisions of the Executive Members Ethics Act (EMEA) "to avoid complaints similar to Ms Zille's colonial tweets and other conduct outlawed by this piece of legislation".

"I'm pleased with the judgment," she said. "I continue to call on members of the executive, both at national and provincial levels, to take time and understand the provisions of the EMEA and code of ethics."

Habedi in his judgement said it was only fair for people who were aggrieved by the Public Protector's reported to seek relief from the court.

"Yet, the Public Protector must be given space to work; to protect the public. Not distracted, sometimes deliberately, from her work.

"But her office too must choose its battles with justice. They must exercise prudence when defending judicial attacks. Let us hope for fair play in this environment."

Segalwe said the Zille judgment marked the third time that Mkhwebane had successfully defended her investigation reports in court.  

Zille referred a request for comment to her attorney Fiona Stewart, who said her preliminary view was that they had "no option but to take it on appeal".

- Compiled by Tammy Petersen

Read more on:    public protector  |  busisiwe mkhewebane  |  helen zille
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