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Wed Jun 29 09:18:13 SAST 2016

Zille, Dana argue on Twitter over 'racist' Cape Town

Times LIVE | 28 December, 2011 16:20

DA leader Helen Zille has become the target of much criticism on Twitter after referring to musician Simphiwe Dana as a "professional black" in a heated debate over racism.

It all started when singer/ model Lindiwe Suttle on Tuesday tweeted about the racism she has experienced in Cape Town. Other tweeters joined in the topic, which was tagged #CapeTownIsRacist. The tag became a trending topic on SA Twitter, with some agreeing and others rebuffing the accusation.

On Wednesday, it was still a trending topic.

Suttle tweeted: "No matter how famous/ rich you are, you're still a 2nd class citizen if you're Black in Cape Town, @helenzille when's the change you spoke about happening".

Zille, premier of the Western Cape, former Cape Town mayor and an ardent Twitter user, responded: "What complete nonsense."

She went on to say it was "a baseless assertion".

One user, @marangdream, responded: "Someone says they feel racism, "What Nonsense!" is NOT an appropriate response", to which Zille replied: "They did NOT say they 'feel' racism. They said Cape Town IS racist. BIG difference. I respect feelings but not blanket accusations."

At some point Dana tweeted to Zille: "Are you disputing/ denying that Cape Town is racist? Is this because some of your friends are black?"

When one Twitter user (outside of the #CapeTownIsRacist topic) tweeted that they had bumped into Dana at the V&A Waterfront, Zille tweeted: "Sorry? I thought she left Cape Town claiming it is "racist"."

Dana responded: "Yes ma'am I did. Are you disputing that it's racist?", before later tweeting: "It is embarrassing that as a leader you would deny people their experiences. Try live in a black skin for once. You have the power to change things. Use it!"

Zille then tweeted what has seen her face harsh criticism and abuse on the social network: "You're a highly respected black professional. Don't try to be a professional black. It demeans you."

One user asked Zille to "define" what a 'professional black' was, to which she responded: "People who base their life and purpose around their colour."  When pressed for a definition of a 'professional white' by another user, she said: "It is someone who is self-obsessed and claims victimhood because they are white."

Twitter users have been up in arms against Zille since, with the politician becoming a trending topic ('#professionalblack' is also trending).

Twitterer @WildWildWonga said: "Helen Zille that 'professional black' classification is a pretty racist if you ask me. You just made Simphiwe Dana's point."

Another user, @LTqha, tweeted: "Only Helen Zille can get away with demeaning blacks and still get the black votes. Good 4u Baas!"

Twitterer kuhle83 asked Zille: "So if it was 17 years after the Holocaust, would you be calling people 'professional Jews'?"

Dana herself weighed in, tweeting: "So Helen Zille is gonna teach me how to be an acceptable black. I'm ever so so grateful."

Regarding Zille becoming a trending topic and the subject of much criticism, Dana said: "Helen Zille has managed to piss off black twitter. She can't blame me for this one."

Meanwhile, Capetonians are defending their city against the #CapeTownIsRacist topic, coming up with their own trending topic: #CapeTownIsAwesome.

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