Helen Zille and Chester Missing battle it out on Twitter

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille and puppet "Chester Missing" battled it out on a social networking site on Wednesday after her suggestion that he campaigned against racists to boost his career.

Zille seemed to target ventriloquist Conrad Koch and his puppet Chester Missing in her "SA Today" newsletter on racism and free speech, released earlier in the week.

She referred to Koch and Missing's success in court after Dan Roodt brought an application for an interdict against them on behalf of Afrikaans singer Steve Hofmeyr last month.

The spat began when Hofmeyr tweeted on October 23: "Sorry to offend but in my books blacks were the architects of apartheid. Go figure."

Missing then launched a civil campaign against the singer's racism and had the interim protection order Hofmeyr obtained against him set aside.

Zille said the puppet became the "poster-pop for anti-racists" and a national hero after winning the court case.

"But maybe the laugh's on us. Chester knows there is nothing like a running battle with racists to send your career into orbit," she stated in the newsletter.

"Maybe he did a deal with Steve and Dan to share the royalties in perpetuity. Steve and Dan would know that's what you do when your career needs a booster rocket."

Missing responded to Zille on Twitter, saying he and his family had been threatened and he had nonetheless gone to court, while she apparently sat back.

He referred her to tweets he sent her and her parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane last month, in which he asked if they were okay with Hofmeyr saying black people deserved apartheid.

Zille on Monday tweeted: "Can someone please explain how @chestermissing managed to make this newsletter about himself? Who has lost it here?"

Missing responded that Zille had brought him into it and she should not complain when he replied.

"You could've just nailed Steve," he said.

Using satirical posters, Missing seemed to turn on his puppet-master on Wednesday and agreed with Zille that Koch was seeking publicity and attention.

He offered her advice in a tweet he posted of a photo of Zille in her party clothes on a donkey cart, waving her hand.

Missing said: "@helenzille best avoid donkeys lest people say anti-racist-satirist-pot-shot taking move is called a publicity stunt".

She replied that a North West province community dealing with a land claim problem fetched her in the donkey cart and she had loved it.

When someone suggested her comment about sharing royalties was a bit snide, Zille replied it was "mindblowing" that satirists could not take the slightest bit of satire about themselves.

Missing seemed surprised that Zille was suggesting her comments were satire and asked if her doek (headscarf) was also satire.

He posted a much-circulated photo of Zille in a blue headscarf stirring a traditional pot of pap while campaigning in the North West earlier in the year.