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Zille to challenge Mkhwebane's findings on her colonialism tweet

Helen Zille
Image: Esa Alexander.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille on Monday rejected Public Protector Busisiswe Mkhwebane’s findings that a tweet she wrote on colonialism in March 2017 was a violation of the Executive Ethics code.

“The Premier has not received the actual report‚ outlining the reasons for this finding‚” Zille’s office said in a statement shortly after Mkhwebane’s report was released.

“However‚ from what has been announced… the Premier is likely to take this report on judicial review. The Premier has already advised the Public Protector that‚ in her view‚ such a finding would be unlawful and irrational‚” the statement from Zille’s office read.

The ANC had lodged the complaint against Zille‚ alleging that the tweet by Zille had brought back a lot of pain and suffering to victims of apartheid. The tweet had read: “For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative‚ think of our independent judiciary‚ transport infrastructure‚ piped water.”

Mkhwebane had recommended that the speaker of the Western Cape provincial legislature should‚ within 30 days of the report‚ take appropriate action to hold Zille accountable for her utterances.

Delivering her report‚ Mkhwebane said Zille maintained that she saw nothing wrong in the tweet.

“The premier felt that it was within her rights to tweet like that because according to the constitution‚ she has freedom of expression. That was her view - that there is nothing wrong she has done‚” said Mkhwebane. In contradiction‚ however‚ Zille had apologised for the offensive tweet last year shortly after it sparked outrage.

Regarding the apology‚ Mkhwebane said: “Her apology can be interpreted as recognition of the negative impact the tweet had on the dignity of a section of the South African population.” She added that while Zille had freedom of expression‚ her tweet was offensive and insensitive

The former DA leader had been placed on suspension for the tweet in March last year‚ a move‚ however‚ which she said was extremely harsh.

She said the party had failed to follow proper party procedures when considering her suspension.

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 had 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 maintained that her tweets had been 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.

She 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.

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