Déjà views: Helen Zille stirs up yet another social media storm, this time over #BlackLivesMatter

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DA Federal Council chairperson Helen Zille
DA Federal Council chairperson Helen Zille
PHOTO: Jaco Marais
  • Helen Zille has taken aim at the #BlackLivesMatter movement, criticising the group's "silence" on the terrorist attacks in Mozambique.
  • At least 12 people have been beheaded by Islamist militants in an attack on Palma in the Cabo Delgado province.
  • In a Facebook post, Zille said she had "never seen anything so horrific before".

DA Federal Council chairperson Helen Zille has found herself at the centre of another social media storm, after claiming in a post that the #BlackLivesMatter movement has been silent in the face of insurgent attacks in northern Mozambique.

Last month, Islamist militants launched deadly attacks on the city of Palma in the Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique. Around 12 people were beheaded during the attack.

In a Facebook post, Zille said: 

I have been sent some videos of the ISIS-linked insurgent attacks in Cabo Delgado in Northern Mozambique. They are so totally and utterly gruesome, that I can honestly say I have never seen anything so horrific before. Live people having their limbs hacked off. People parading the streets with decapitated heads. Charred burnt bodies of people writhing in agony after being burnt alive. I cannot possibly forward them because they are just too gruesome.

"Now here is a dead serious question: Where is #BlackLivesMatter? Or do they only deal with deaths that they can make political capital out of, in decrying 'whiteness'? Nothing I have ever seen compares to the brutality in Cabo Delgado. Yet silence."

She added that the movement's supporters were "too busy scouring the internet looking for unintentional micro aggressions" to stop "the most brutal violence committed against black people".

"Perhaps they are uncomfortable because it would mean confronting the ISIS methodology – which somehow escapes their condemnation. I have genuinely never, ever, watched brutality on this scale. The outcry has been negligible, but I add my voice to it, as loudly as I can, right now," Zille posted.

Her comments have drawn widespread criticism.

EFF MP and member of the party's central command team, Nazier Paulsen, said Zille was aiming to "blatantly discredit the cause of the Black Lives Matter movement" and its work.

'You're the one trying to get political mileage'

"The second, more sinister objective is to help the US State Department and CIA manufacture pretext to interfere in Southern Africa. This is clear agitation by the Democratic Alliance to get the US to increase its military presence entrenched in Africa," said Paulsen.

"The main targets of the unrest are the multinational installations in Mozambique [which are only there] to benefit from the country's newfound gas deposits… The Mozambican crisis requires the attention of SADC and the AU. It is their responsibility to resolve conflict in Africa and they should ensure the advancement of Africans without the assistance of multinationals. If they cannot work towards that then they serve no real purpose."

Responding to her post, Lenny Appadoo commented: 

Really Helen? Conflating the BLM movement with this horrendous situation in Mozambique is beneath you. You're the one trying to get political mileage out of this.

Georgina Athamandia Avlonitis commented: "This is not an 'either or' situation Ms. Zille – what you're saying is in line with 'why are you protesting for children's rights when you should be protesting for climate change action' – the two are very different contexts and issues – interlinked for sure, but not to be compared or punted against each other."

Another social media user, Marc Heuer, said: "What on earth does an American protest over police [brutality] have to do with Mozambique? Instead of shifting attention and hijacking an important movement with your ridiculous statement, why don't you and your fellow keyboard activists start your very own movement?"

Also responding to Zille's post, Mziwoxolo Mayedwa said: "While you point fingers to other people to be outrage[d] about the situation – where is your own anger on this matter? You are so quick to be jump into your racist rhetoric without showing any empathy to the lost. You are no different to the people who are bias[ed] on matters that include race. It is people like you who continue to perpetuate hate and rage towards race. Your post is not helping at all rather than it is dividing people based on their own race, colour, culture. In the same sentence you are asking where is the #blacklivesmatter you should also ask where the hell are you in responding on this matter? This finger-point[ing] is so disgusting, especially when it is done by the leaders. (all sic)"

When asked to clarify her statements, Zille told News24: 

[The post] is merely pointing out that when black lives are snuffed out in the way that they are, and in the most brutal deliberate fashion, there is hardly any outcry and the #BlackLivesMatter movement is entirely silent. That is a totally valid point to make. #HypocrisyMustFall.

"Black lives matter all the time; not only when they are taken by whites, in order to score political points against 'whiteness'. If people do not agree with this, it is their problem, not mine."

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