DA faces its Rubicon after Zille’s tweets
Detractors within the DA of embattled Western Cape Premier Helen Zille are calling for her to be removed from her position, following her tweet this week that not everything about colonialism was negative.
The DA is now facing its Rubicon: it is up to the party to decide Zille’s future.
She faces an internal disciplinary process after the party’s federal executive laid a complaint against her on Thursday, asking that she be investigated for having contravened the DA’s social media policy or its federal Constitution.
On Thursday, Zille tweeted: “For those claiming the legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc.”
She followed that with: “Would we have had a transition into specialised healthcare and medication without colonial influence? Just be honest, please.”
She then added: “Getting on to an aeroplane now and won’t get onto the wi-fi so that I can cut off those who think EVERY aspect of colonial legacy was bad.”
She later apologised “unreservedly for a tweet that may have come across as a defence of colonialism. It was not”.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane was among party officials who, in response to Zille, tweeted: “Let’s make this clear: Colonialism, like apartheid, was a system of oppression and subjugation. It can never be justified.”
The DA later announced that Maimane had referred Zille to its federal legal commission for investigation as her tweets may have violated the DA’s social media policy for public representatives.
Glynnis Breytenbach, who chairs this commission, told City Press yesterday that it was investigating whether Zille contravened the social-media policy or the DA’s federal constitution.
Charges would depend on the outcome of the probe. Breytenbach would not give time frames for the process.
But four DA members who spoke to City Press recalled how the party dealt with DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard, who pleaded guilty to misconduct, bringing the party into disrepute and not abiding by its social-media policy.
Kohler Barnard had shared a Facebook post which said health, education and the police service were better during apartheid. Her DA membership was terminated following a disciplinary process, but was withdrawn on appeal.
However, she was stripped of all internally elected positions in the DA and was demoted from being the party’s spokesperson on police to its deputy spokesperson on public works. Her punishment is the basis of the call for Zille’s removal.
“A precedent was set, and Helen’s candidacy as premier was through an election by the DA’s electoral college,” said one DA member and Zille detractor.
Another said Zille had to go to protect the DA’s image as inaction would prove costly come the 2019 polls.
The DA’s acting leader in the Western Cape, Bonginkosi Madikizela, who is also MEC for Human Settlements in Zille’s provincial cabinet, was coy when asked whether he was ready to take over as premier should Zille be removed. “That is a wrong assumption ... I don’t want to pre-empt a decision, but if she is suspended, all of us will have an opportunity to fill the position.”
Madikizela said he was happy that the matter was with the commission, calling Zille’s tweet “offensive”.
He praised DA leaders for speaking out against Zille, saying that would never happen in other political parties.
CHAOS The two-day Higher Education National Convention – set up to discuss student calls for free tertiary tuition – was due to start in Midrand yesterday. However, after numerous disruptions by students dressed in Economic Freedom Fighters T-shirts, it was cancelled. Event organisers told everyone to leave the premises amid student clashes and chairs being thrown around inside the venue. Minister of Basic Education and Higher Learning Blade Nzimande was not given an opportunity to address the convention and was escorted out by security