DA leaders report Helen Zille's apartheid tweets to disciplinary body

Party MP says tweets are a breach of the party's digital media policy and constitution

24 June 2020 - 12:02 By APHIWE DEKLERK
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DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille.
DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille.
Image: Trevor Samson/© Business Day

Two DA public representatives have filed formal complaints against the chairperson of the party's federal council, Helen Zille, over her tweets about apartheid.

The two complaints were made by party MP Hlanganani Gumbi  and Gauteng MPL Khume Ramulifho and filed with the party on Tuesday.

This comes after Zille caused a Twitter storm when she said that there are more racist laws under the current government than there were during apartheid.

TimesLIVE has seen both complaints which are directed to Zille's deputy, Thomas Walters, and party leader John Steenhuisen.

Steenhuisen has already confirmed that the party had referred Zille's tweets to the party's federal legal commission which is empowered to deal with legal and disciplinary matters.

Gumbi's complaint concerns a possible breach of the DA digital media policy and the party's constitution.

“I refer specifically to a public exchange by Helen Zille as shown in the two attached pictures of tweets where she makes reference to there being ‘more racist laws today than there were under apartheid’. This is both factually wrong and morally reprehensible.

“I would submit that as a long-standing member of the party and specifically senior leader, her conduct should be held to a higher regard and code of ethics. The conduct potentially violates the following sentiments and clauses,” reads Gumbi's complaint.

He confirmed to TimesLIVE on Tuesday that he filed the complaint with the party but would not comment further. But on his Twitter page, Gumbi had voiced his stance on Zille's apartheid tweets.

“Apartheid was a crime again humanity. It formalised racism with some of the most disgusting laws on earth. Democratic SA comes nothing close to this crude system intended to divide, suppress and exploit. Saying this shouldn’t even be necessary,” he said on his Twitter account.

Ramulifho, in his complaint, said apartheid laws were racist and intended to discriminate against black people.

“They were denied access to basic human rights, they were segregated, they were arrested, they were murdered and went into exile fighting for a democratic SA.  

“This is recognised by SA’s constitution and the DA’s federal constitution on values on page 6,” said Ramulifho.

When contacted on Wednesday Ramulifho, who is the party's education spokesperson in Gauteng, confirmed laying the complaint but declined to comment further on the matter.

Party spokesperson Solly Malatsi, when asked about whether there were formal complaints against Zille, referred TimesLIVE to a reply by Steenhuisen where he confirmed that Zille's tweets were referred to the party's structures after the two had a conversation about them.

In his reply, Steenhuisen said SA was an infinitely better, more just and humane society now than it was under apartheid.

“That said, we have a government that is increasingly and deliberately driving wedges between South Africans, trading in racial divisiveness and making some South Africans feel as though they don’t belong. This is totally wrong. And law which excludes on the basis of race is inherently wrong.

“The high court judgment which says it is OK for a government to choose who it helps in a time of crisis on the basis of race, is abhorrent. It must be taken on appeal, and we will do that,” said Steenhuisen.

He said all racist laws are wrong and that was “consistent with Helen’s long record of opposing injustice”. 

“Helen also made the comment that there are more racist laws now than there were under apartheid. This is not true, and I can’t see any evidence for it.

“I have today had a conversation with her directly and expressed my views on the matter. Helen has referred her tweet to the party structures to determine whether she has breached any rules or regulations of the party,” said Steenhuisen.

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