The writer questions why the DA continues to allow Helen Zille to campaign on behalf of that party when she is a divisive figure who has the potential to cost them black votes in numbers.
07 June 2017, The Federal Executive (FedEx) of the Democratic Alliance (DA) decided by an overwhelming majority to officially suspend Helen Zille from party related activities until such time as her disciplinary hearing was concluded. The suspension was effective immediately. The Federal Executive agreed that Ms Zille’s social media commentary and public utterances in connection with colonialism broke down public trust, stunted South Africa’s reconciliation imperative, and undermined our political project.
Despite the Federal Executive of the DA being clear that Helen Zille has been suspended from party related activities, on 4 July she was on a DA campaign trail for Ward 5 by-elections, Eendekuil, Bergrivier, in the Western Cape.
The question arises. Which party activities is she suspended from? How is someone who has broken public trust, who has compromised the reconciliation project, out there campaigning for the same party to win elections?
Of course, on 13 June 2017, on a very unclear move that seemed to be a shift of position from everyone, Zille and DA leader Mmusi Maimane held a joint press conference, with an apology from Zille that no one knew what exactly it was for (since she has not retracted her pro-colonial statements). Maimane told the media that the new punishment for Zille is that she won’t take part in the DA’s Federal Executive, Federal Council or Provincial Council and her political communication will be subject to party approval. This means even in this watered-down version of restrictions; Helen Zille is still subject to party approval to engage in party activities. She has not hinted to have sought or been granted any approval for her latest stunt, but she is out there indulging her vanity because she has never been capable of playing in the background.
But What do Helen Zille’s activities mean for the Democratic Alliance’s future. The bigger problem with Zille, as eloquently put by talkshow host Eusebius McKaiser in February 2014, is that she is arrogant, pretends to be an expert, refuses to climb down after hurling abuse at civil society experts. Delivering a keynote address at the Liberal International 60th Congress in Mexico City in November 2015, Zille said: “Blaming apartheid and ‘whiteness’ for the deteriorating economic situation is a diversion from the debate we should be having about policy solutions required to address the unemployment crisis. This diversion is also entrenching racial divisions, which makes economic growth increasingly elusive,” Zille said.
So, Zille went to Mexico to play white victim, to gloss over the brutal colonial and Apartheid history and to badmouth a country that has been nothing but great to her since her parents got off the German boat running away from the evil of mankind. She has failed to recognise this evil when it is visited to other races and clans except hers. In fact, she has refused to think of the Holocaust and Apartheid as equal evils even as the United Nations calls them crimes against humanity.
She has continued to reduce the black experience, creating a ‘black cry baby’ mentality, that our blaming the past is excessive and exaggerated. How is this person allowed to go and campaign in black neighbourhoods? Is it because they are “ignorant”?
Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni, in summing up this Helen Zille saga, says “The DA will struggle to shake off the perception of it being a party that is sympathetic to colonialists or racist sympathisers.”
This is especially when they don’t only seem to struggle to restrain the overt colonial sympathier in their midst, but seem to depend on her for political campaigns and even more worrying, for being at her mercy as an organisation to be a going concern.
The DA’s decision to keep Zille on as Premier of the Western Cape would lose the party black voters come 2019, said another Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi. He said the party did not understand how the western periods of enlightenment and modernity had led to the current views on blacks being seen as inferior. “It will have a negative impact on the party nationally, that’s what they should be worried about.”
How is it that someone who is creating anti-DA sentiments about the party is unleashed to go and campaign for the very party.
But Zille has been at it for the longest of time. Just before she championed the positive parts of colonialism, she had questioned why it was wrong for a restaurant to racially profile its patrons after two people were identified as “two blacks” on their bill at a Cape Town restaurant. After a backlash, she deleted that tweet. Before then she had infamously referred to black learners from the Eastern Cape as “education refugees” on Twitter. She apologised. Zille has also tweeted that if “woke” University of Cape Town students hate being there, then their funding should be withdrawn. She passionately defended her comments. A few years ago, Zille used Twitter to label musician Simphiwe Dana a “professional black” after Dana spoke out about her experience of racism in Cape Town.
The very Steve Biko, who seem to hold a struggle ticket for Zille, having circumspectly exposed his death, was very clear that black people needed to fight for their own freedom and not have other people fighting for them who are not black. Steven Biko questioned how anyone who is not black, fighting a black struggle, how such person would be invested on black people’s plights when it started to compromise their own?
Zille’s change of heart about the evils of Apartheid and Colonialism has affirmed Biko’s suspicion. The voters can see it.
Meokgo Matuba is Secretary-General of the ANC Women’s League.