Zille takes it a tweet too far

17 March 2017 - 08:21 By APHIWE DEKLERK
Helen Zille's sentiments highlight how central the erasure of black and non-European modernities is to settler colonial thought.
Helen Zille's sentiments highlight how central the erasure of black and non-European modernities is to settler colonial thought.
Image: Trevor Samson/© Business Day

Western Cape premier Helen Zille dodged questions yesterday about her Twitter comments that appeared to praise colonialism.

Zille failed to reply to questions sent to her by The Times.

Her spokesman, Michael Mpofu, said she would be "responding in detail in the coming days".

A storm erupted earlier after Zille tweeted: "For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water, etc."

"Would we have had a transition into specialised healthcare and medication without colonial influence? Just be honest, please," she wrote in a second tweet.

But soon she was forced to apologise on Twitter after party leader Mmusi Maimane distanced the DA from her tweets and released a statement saying the party had referred the matter to its federal legal commission for investigation.

Zille is now likely to face disciplinary action from the party.

She also refused to answer questions about the issue in the Western Cape legislature yesterday.

  • BREAKING: Zille faces disciplinary action from DA after controversial tweetsWestern Cape premier Helen Zille is being investigated by her party because of her controversial social media utterances‚ DA leader Mmusi Maimane said on Thursday. 

Mpofu said: "The premier has unreservedly apologised for a tweet that may have come across as a defence of colonialism.

"The premier was referring to how the Singaporean people have overcome the past to build a successful economy.

"We wish to be clear that the premier was not justifying colonialism. Furthermore, as indicated in the house today, the premier will be responding in detail in the coming days," said Mpofu.

This will be the first time the DA has formally taken Zille to task for her tweets, some of which have raised the ire of many black South Africans on Twitter.

A number of DA leaders also distanced themselves from Zille's tweets, including Mbali Ntuli, Makashule Gana, Gordon Mackay, Phumzile van Damme and Midvaal mayor Bongani Baloyi.

Ntuli was the first DA leader to distance herself from Zille's statements.

  • The ANC calls for Zille's head: Read the full‚ no-punches-pulled statementNow the ANC in the Western Cape has added its voice to the Zille Twitter faux pas.

She replied on Twitter: "It was ONLY negative!! Colonialism=development argument is trash as those subjugated can attest to.

"It's like saying Nazism was good for German democracy and their advancements in technology," added Ntuli.

But Zille, replying to another Twitter user, @GrahamDowns, had said: "I do not know what positive Hitler produced. He stoked up nationalism and authoritarianism and genocide."

The EFF and ANC have called for Zille to be fired.

ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said: "For us it is not shocking that a leader of the DA could make such absurd statements."

The EFF rejected Zille's apology, saying her tweet was "unconstitutional, racist and anti-black".

"She is [a] cold-hearted racist who believes colonialism, a crime against black people, is not a bad thing," the party said.