The Democratic Alliance has a huge task on its hands: trying to clean up the mess Helen Zille made with her tweets on colonialism.
Despite Zille and DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s attempts to present a united front during a joint press conference yesterday, the ANC in the Western Cape is pushing ahead with its plan to table a motion of no confidence in Zille, the province’s premier.
The party has criticised the way in which the DA disciplined Zille over the colonialism tweets saga.
“As a premier ... she is not elected only by the legislature. Her name came from the party, so she still represents the party.
“She will still go to a caucus of the DA because she is the leader of the DA at legislature.
It’s misleading to South Africans to say that she won’t participate in any party activities, because there is a party caucus at the legislature,” ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said.
Yesterday, during a joint press conference, Zille and Maimane addressed the nation – he trying to reassure the public (he was “personally angered” by the tweet and “took immediate action to correct the impression that these were the DA’s views”) and she trying to appear sorry and remorseful (apologising “unreservedly” to the South African public for her “insensitive” tweets).
Seated next to each other in the conference room the two politicians were trying to present a united front, but you could feel that there were two different ideas in the room.
According to Maimane’s spokesperson, Graham Charters, the purpose of yesterday’s conference and Zille’s apology was not necessarily about rectifying the DA’s image for the elections in 2019 or even to ensure the party the number of votes they wanted to obtain, but more so to assert Maimane’s power as the leader of the party and to show that the direction he chooses is the direction the party will have to follow.
But the ANC’s provincial secretary, Faiez Jacobs, has pooh-poohed this.
“A remark about stepping aside for the country shows that this announcement is about making Mmusi Maimane look as if he’s in charge. If he’s really in charge he would’ve fired her.”
At the press conference, Zille reiterated again and again that she wanted to “apologise unreservedly to the South African public” and to once again gain the public’s trust: “My intention now is to do everything I can to restore public trust that has been eroded.”
Charters thought her apology was sincere.
“I think she realised her mistakes and acknowledged them after standing by her beliefs ruthlessly.”
The controversial tweets Zille posted at the end of March, stated: “For those claiming the legacy of colonialism was only negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water ... etc”.
They went on to say: “Would we have had a transition into specialised health care and medication without colonial influence? Just be honest, please.”
On being questioned about these controversial tweets, Zille defended them on multiple occasions, stating that her tweets were “simple statement of fact”, according to News 24.
Zille said yesterday that she believed that colonialism was “undefendable” and she did not “support, justify, praise [nor] promote it in any way”.
“I recognise the offence of my tweet [...] with regards to the legacy of colonialism” said the Premier of the Western Cape.
These tweets tarnished the DA’s image. Moreover they called into question the DA’s real intentions and views on race in the country.
“There is absolutely no question that her tweet, and subsequent defence of it, did damage to race relations in our country and set us back as a party,” said Maimane.
“Many South Africans suffered directly under colonialism and apartheid, and continue to be disadvantaged by the legacy of colonialism and apartheid.”
It was decided by the DA’s representatives that it would be in the party’s best interest if Helen Zille stepped down from all decision making positions, “including the federal executive, federal council and provincial council.
"In addition, her political communication from this point onward will focus on matters relating to the Western Cape provincial government where she will remain Premier.
"If she wishes to communicate on any other political issues, she will abide by the sign-off protocols of the Democratic Alliance.” said Maimane.
Kodwa has labelled the agreement an “unadulterated defence of white supremacy and privilege”.
“If you understand where we come from… the impact both in terms of what we’re dealing with – inequality and unemployment – a person like her who praises colonialism should have been removed from all party official activities including Western Cape premier position.”
But the DA had no authority to remove Zille as premier of the Western Cape.
This could have only been done if a majority of members of the provincial legislature voted for her removal during a motion of no confidence.
Kodwa called this “hypocritical”.