The lady doth protest too much

20 September 2017 - 12:45 By The Times Editorial
Helen Zille
Helen Zille

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille’s office reacted furiously to a TimesLIVE report last Thursday headlined “Parched Cape taxpayers fork out for Zille’s R90,000 water purifier”.

A press release at 2.21am the following day described the report as defamatory, flawed, astounding, malicious, speculative and incorrect. It was followed up by 5am tweets from Zille’s chief of staff defaming our reporter.

Later on Friday, after we had pointed out to the premier’s office that all we had done was report what public works MEC Donald Grant told the provincial legislature, Zille wrote privately to TimesLIVE, saying: “This letter comes ‘in peace’,” and, “We do not want conflict with the news media.”

Presumably she was looking for a climbdown, so when she didn’t get one she reverted to her more natural demeanour, exemplified earlier this year in the row about her ill-advised tweets on colonialism.

In an online article on Monday, Zille accused us of publishing fake news, egregious distortion, personal grudges, political bias, misrepresentation, manipulation and spin. In other words, she behaved like that other thin-skinned occupier of a state-owned mansion, Donald Trump.

She reacted identically in June when the Sunday Times reported allegations that she put pressure on officials to help her son’s business.

In contrast to Trump, Zille at least has a track record in politics. She deserves credit for putting the City of Cape Town on the right track as mayor, and under her premiership the Western Cape has outperformed other provinces in many areas.

Zille’s tweets in March brought about the biggest crisis in the DA’s history. After digging in her heels for three months she escaped by the skin of her teeth, but — like Trump — insists on being a slow learner when it comes to handling criticism, real or perceived.

  • An earlier version of this article referred to Zille's political adviser where it should have referred to her chief of staff.