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S. Africa: Helen Zille Suspended From DA Party Over Colonialism Tweet


Updated: June 13, 2017, 8:48 PM IST
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S. Africa: Helen Zille Suspended From DA Party Over Colonialism Tweet
File photo of former South African opposition Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille. (Photo: Reuters)
Johannesburg: South Africa's main opposition party Tuesday removed former leader Helen Zille from all party leadership roles after a disciplinary hearing over a controversial tweet in which she praised aspects of colonialism.

Zille apologised "unreservedly" Tuesday for the tweet, which she posted in March.

Mmusi Maimane, current leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) party, said Zille "has agreed that it is in the best interests of the party for her to vacate her position on all decision-making structures".

Zille told a news conference that she was "genuinely sorry" and that she realised that her comment was insensitive to South Africans who suffered under colonial oppression.

She said she "apologised unreservedly to the South African public who were offended by this tweet and my subsequent explanation of it".

On March 16, Zille wrote: "For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water."

The tweet was followed by a series of comments justifying her outburst, including a comparison between South Africa and Singapore which she said had managed to build a strong state after the end of colonial rule.

The party then suspended her pending a disciplinary hearing and said Zille's action had damaged the DA, which is still struggling to shake off its image as a "white" organisation.

The colonialism comment had also threatened to divide the party itself.

Mmusi told journalists that he had been "personally angered by the tweet" and that the party had no room for those who seek to sow divisions.

Zille, 66, is credited with growing support for the DA among black people, whose votes helped it take control of key cities, including the administrative capital Pretoria and Johannesburg, from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) after local government elections last year.

Maimane said the party risked a protracted legal battle with Zille if the matter was not settled before the 2019 election.

Zille, who has a large twitter following, is no stranger to controversial tweets.

She will remain leader of the Western Cape province.

The ANC on Tuesday slammed Zille's apology, calling it an "unadulterated defence of white supremacy and privilege".

It accused Maimane of having "no real power".

Maimane replaced Zille in 2015 as the DA's first black leader.
First Published: June 13, 2017, 8:34 PM IST
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