Thank you Helen Zille

2015-04-12 12:49

Western Cape Premier and Outgoing DA Leader, Helen Zille

In 2008, I attended a workshop organised by the City of Cape Town on Neighbourhood watches in the Cape Metro. I met my leader for the very first time on that day. Of course I ran towards her during our lunch break, and shook her hands.

After I introduced myself to her, she asked about Gogo Nondumiso Mfaco whom she had offered a hiding place in Apartheid South Africa when the police were looking for Gogo. Of course I had no idea at that time she was the nice white lady that offered Gogo a hiding place. I’d learn about this through an interaction with her on twitter as Gogo never mentioned any names, and Helen also doesn’t mention names of the people she had assisted.

From that workshop, a task team was assembled and I happened to be on that task team. The next time I met Helen Zille, she arrived to chair the first meeting of that task team, and she was wearing a City of Cape Town tracksuit, and her hair was wet as she had jumped out of a shower to chair that meeting on a Saturday.

Then again, when I was working with informal settlements in Khayelitsha, Helen Zille popped up to see the plight of people who live in shacks without adequate municipal services and see how council could assist. She was wearing construction safety boots this time around as some of the informal settlements had just been hit by heavy rains.

A few encounters with her, one thing I can deduce from them is that she puts the interests of society first. Her work ethic, her commitment to seeing South Africa move forward, preserving and advancing our country’s constitution ought to be emulated by whoever replaces her (of course we wish it was Lindiwe Mazibuko, maybe Thuli Madonsela?) Allow us to dream.

I remember the DA’s councillor Vuba sharing how much he admires Helen after she had been advised by her doctor to take a few days off but she insisted on flying to Pretoria to meet with Eskom and find ways of how Cape Town could deal with the first incidents of #LoadShedding.

Her days as mayor saw many informal settlements that had been neglected by the National Party and ANC government, receive municipal service they did not enjoy. And a new framework of how council would extend the provision of those services was crafted and implemented; this is reflected in the council’s development plans and budget that is spent delivering services to the poor.

I have also watched her transform the DA to what was once called a ‘white party’ to a party that has structures throughout South Africa. It was extremely rare to see the DA in Khayelitsha before Helen Zille was elected DA leader. Today the DA enjoys widespread support in many communities throughout South Africa.

She had previously been sent to Khayelitsha and other communities to establish and grow party support long before she was elected leader. And well, if you look at the DA today being the only political party that has consistently increased its share of the vote in every election, and presence across the country gives testament to her successes.

Whatever her reasons for her stepping down may be (I don’t believe the nonsense she said at the press conference), I believe she has positioned the party well for future growth and will continue to do so as Western Cape Premier. And her contribution to South African politics is greatly appreciated.

Suit yesterday, tracksuit today, gumboots tomorrow, the chameleon of South African politics who appealed to a diverse group of people. No other white (yes this matters) politician can claim to have done for a democratic South Africa what Zille has.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you Helen Zille for your service as Federal Leader of the Democratic Alliance. Your work for our city, province, and country is a legacy worth preserving, not with statues, but by emulating your principles through our work with deprived communities. If other leaders were as committed to the values our constitution is founded on as you are, we would have the government we wish to see. One that upholds the constitution, and works as tirelessly as you have, to advance the enjoyment of the rights enshrined in the constitution.

Goodluck to whoever takes over, big shoes to fill.

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