South Africa: I was Charged Because I am White‚ says Zille

Naledi Shange, Times Live, June 7, 2017

Helen Zille

Helen Zille

Former DA leader Helen Zille says the Democratic Alliance has dealt harshly with her‚ claiming the party failed to follow proper party procedures when considering her suspension.

Zille‚ who is Premier of the Western Cape‚ was officially suspended from the party on Wednesday night.

This after the party initially announced her suspension at the weekend then corrected a statement to say they had served her with a letter of intention to suspend.

Zille is being disciplined over a March tweet in which she discussed the advantages of colonialism.

Helen Zille's Colonialism Tweets

In a nine-page letter motivating why she should not be suspended‚ Zille said black people who shared the same views as her on colonialism were not treated in the same manner.

Zille made her motivation letter public moments after the DA confirmed her suspension.

“Given that so many black South Africans have expressed exactly the same views on the legacy of colonialism as I have (only in more forceful terms) and given that the DA has never raised any concerns about these views‚ let alone repudiated them‚ and has no written policy on the matter‚ I drew the conclusion that a contributing reason to my being charged is the fact that I am not black‚” said Zille.

“Other events of the past few months have led me and others to the conclusion that‚ in certain instances‚ DA members are treated differentially on the basis of race‚” she said.

Zille had caused outrage when she took to Twitter and wrote: “For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative‚ think of our independent judiciary‚ transport infrastructure‚ piped water.”

She has said that her tweets were taken out of context.

In her letter‚ she hit back at the party‚ accusing it of failing to follow due process in her matter. She also claimed the case was “pre-judged”.

Zille said her suspension was a vindictive move which came after she resisted being pushed into resigning.

Zille rubbished claims that the tweet saga had tarnished the party’s image‚ saying: “The ongoing damage to the party in this matter is of its own doing”.

“All I have done is try to correct these misstatements and distortions. I am not the one who has held press conferences and made speeches‚ or statements‚ or continuously leaked misinformation to the media.”

At the end of her lengthy note‚ Zille said it was not true that she had not apologised for the tweets.

“Despite the gross misinterpretation of my tweet‚ I nevertheless complied with [the] request to apologise and posted the following: ‘I apologise unreservedly for a tweet that may have come across as a defence of colonialism. It was not‚’” she said.

Earlier on Wednesday Zille was interviewed on PowerFM and repeated her defence of her controversial comments on colonialism.

Asked whether her comments could be compared to defences of holocaust‚ Zille said the two were different.

“There is a big difference between genocide and colonialism. The holocaust was a deliberate attempt to murder 11-million people. There is a difference between colonialism and a deliberate genocidal project‚” she said in response to a question posed by the interviewer.

“History is horrific… The big question is what you do with the legacy and how you build a future.

“In my travels around the world‚ I have been amazed with some countries’ capacity‚ despite horrific events in the past‚ to mobilise in the present and build a future and that is what we need to do here.”

Meanwhile‚ in announcing her suspension the DA Federal Executive (Fedex) said the decision was taken by the “overwhelming majority and that the suspension is effective immediately.”

“The Fedex agreed that Ms Zille’s social media commentary and public utterances in connection with colonialism breaks down public trust‚ stunts South Africa’s reconciliation imperative‚ and undermines our political project‚” said DA Fedex chairman James Selfe Selfe.

“There is no question that Ms Zille’s original tweets and subsequent justifications have damaged our standing in the public mind.

“We live in a fragile democracy which means our public representatives must‚ at all times‚ be sensitive to the legitimate anger that people still feel about our past and its legacy‚” he added.

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