Former DA leader Helen Zille resorted to using a quote by former president the late Nelson Mandela to justify her highly disputed contention that not everything about colonialism and its legacy is bad.
She quoted Mandela as having said: “These schools have often been criticised for being colonialist in their attitudes and practices. Yet, even with such attitudes, I believe their benefits outweighed their disadvantages.”
This, according to Zille, was a reminder “of what President Nelson Mandela had said of the missionary schools, where so many African leaders of his generation were educated”.
To accept this argument, though, one would also have to agree that Christian missionaries were colonialists.
The Western Cape premier caused an uproar on social media last week when she tweeted: “For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc.” She later apologised “for a tweet that may have come across as a defence of colonialism. It was not.”
She received a serious backlash members of the public, as well as DA members of parliament, among them party leader Mmusi Maimane – who said that “colonialism, like Apartheid, was a system of oppression and subjugation. It can never be justified.”
In an opinion piece published on the Daily Maverick, a defiant Zille, however, also blamed the outrage against her tweet on the fact that she’s white.
“While travel broadens the mind, I tend to forget that, on returning to South Africa, it is best to shrink your mind again to fit the contours of political correctness. Especially if you are white. We pay lip service to equal citizenship. In reality, every opinion is judged on the basis of the colour of the person who expresses it. ‘Speaking while white’ is considered the ultimate sin, in terms of the increasingly popular ideology called ‘critical race theory’.”
This is not the first time the DA or someone in the party has turned to Mandela for inspiration or justification. In the days leading up to the 2016 local government elections, members of the Mandela family called on the Independent Electoral Commission to take action against the DA for using former Mandela’s voice in an election advert.
This despite Mandela once having described the DA as a party of “white bosses and black stooges”.