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Cape Town's executive mayor and frontrunner in the DA leadership race, Helen Zille, speaks her mind to Waghied Misbach on subjects ranging from Jacob Zuma to teenage pregnancies

By unknown | Apr 05, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

The ANC has claimed there was a racist purge when you took over last year?

The ANC has claimed there was a racist purge when you took over last year?

Helen Zille: That's an old accusation and it's never been sustained because it is not true.

The [ANC] administration purged people because of their skin colour and not because of performance.

What worries me about journalists these days is that they report what anybody says without checking whether it is true. [Former city manager Wallace] Mgoqi never had a contract, the other person, Mthuthuzeli Swartz, was dismissed after a forensic audit. A couple of people resigned as well to avoid action following forensic audits. That can hardly be called a purge, it's called corruption-free government.

Waghied Misbach: Why are you taking [on] both posts, as Cape Town mayor and as DA leader [if you are elected to succeed Tony Leon]?

HZ: You make it sound unusual. President [Thabo] Mbeki is the president [of South Africa] and he is president of his party at the same time. Every single former prime minister of South Africa has been their party leader as well. When Mangosuthu Buthelezi was minister of home affairs he was also leader of his party.

I will be the leader of the DA, if I am elected, from a platform in local government - which makes complete sense.

That is where I genuinely believe the growth of the DA will lie more than at national level, at this stage. [But] parliament is very important and we need a strong voice there.

WM: Why contest against [DA chairman] Joe Seremane? Surely if the DA wants to grow it needs a black leader?

HZ: Your assumption is black leadership automatically means growth. What happened to the PAC, what happened to Azapo? What happened to the UDM?

Seremane is a fantastic person. He is an excellent chairman. If I were to win I would very much love for him to remain chairman. But I stood because I have been approached by many people to stand.

WM: Can the DA grow in the black community?

HZ: Of course it can over time. Because of our past and because race was the factor that determined everybody's life, it is far too early to expect race not to be a factor. In fact race and ethnicity are the major factors in politics globally.

But I think what we need to do is to move towards Martin Luther King's vision. He was way ahead of his time when he said he was working for a society in which people would be judged by the content of their character and not the colour of their skin. And that is my vision.

WM: Why does the opposition concentrate on corruption in government? Surely there is corruption in the private sector also?

HZ: We criticise corruption wherever it is. Corruption is a real cancer in our society. We said a lot about the Fidentia scam.

Look, I don't comment on national economic issues, but we have eradicated corruption in [the city's] tender system by opening up the entire system. And we know it takes two to tango. It takes corrupt officials, but it also takes corrupt businessmen.

WM: What do you think of floor-crossing?

HZ: It has been badly and cynically manipulated in South Africa. It has been manipulated to buy people to cross the floor. It happens for the purpose of personal promotion, job and career advancement. I am totally against it for those reasons.

WM: And the death penalty?

HZ: If you do not have a good justice system you end up hanging the wrong people. Can you imagine [having] the death penalty and you convict the wrong people in our criminal justice system and with corruption in the police service. Imagine how it can be used, for example, against political opponents.

WM: Gay marriages?

HZ: If I had been in parliament I would have voted for it [the Civil Union Bill].

WM: What can people do about teenage pregnancies?

HZ: It starts in the home. We need parents who have children when they are ready and want children, who are totally dedicated and committed to their children, who are making every sacrifice and support to help their children develop. This in turn generates a sense of commitment and loyalty from their children. In that atmosphere of love, support and discipline we can start addressing some of these problems.

WM: Is Jacob Zuma fit to run for office?

HZ: I don't think Jacob Zuma is the right person to be president of South Africa. What he has said, what he has done, the actions he has admitted to, show that his judgments are highly questionable. The very fact that as head of the HIV and Aids strategy he admitted to having unprotected sex with a woman he knew was HIV positive, who was young enough to be his daughter [and] when we are facing issues you have just raised like teenage pregnancies, raises a major question about judgment, about leading by example and about leading from the front.

WM: What do you think of Thabo Mbeki?

HZ: He has strengths and he has weaknesses like all of us. His biggest weakness is he's reinforced this race obsession in South Africa which we have to grow out of if we want to be a mature democracy. He has been very bold in certain areas. His two worst failures have been Aids and Zimbabwe.

We have had economic growth but we could have had greater economic growth which we need to address unemployment.

And the biggest failure in the long term is what has happened to education in the last 13 years. First-rate education for the poor is what we need in South Africa.


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