Former DA party leader Helen Zille is to avoid any sanction after her party declined to discipline her for her tweets about ‘black privilege’.
According to City Press’ S’Thembile Cele, a fear of in-fighting becoming public is what has inspired the party to go easy on the notoriously controversial Zille.
“The federal legal commission felt that it would be more damaging for the DA to pursue action against Zille, which could end up in a protracted legal battle in the courts, similar to the case of former Cape Town mayor – now Good Party leader – Patricia de Lille,” says Cele in Sunday’s City Press newspaper.
Zille’s tweets in question were made in response to a viral video of an American poet ruminating the topic of “white privilege” on the social media platform, and drew ire from media personalities and former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.
The video starts off with the speaker saying: “We learned your French, we learned your English, we learned your Spanish, we learned your Dutch, your Portuguese, your German, you learned our nothing and you called us stupid.”
Zille replied to the tweet: “Why is she saying this stuff in English?”
That set off a chain of events with everyone, from PowerFM talkshow host Aldrin Sampear to Madonsela, responding to the former DA leader.
It was, however, her response to actor Hlomla Dandala that really turned up the heat.
Dandala was responding to a Twitter user who posted: “Suits are associated with colonial influence no? How about all the other privileged colonial stuff we take for granted, the car, the suit, the cellphone, iPad, bank account, internet, mansion in the burbs, where would you like to draw the line?”
Suits are associated with colonial influence no? How about all the other privileged colonial stuff we take for granted, the car, the suit, the cell phone, iPad, bank account, internet, mansion in the burbs, where would you like to draw the line?
— jehosophat (@Jehosoph4t) May 16, 2019
Dandala said: “You clearly don’t understand white privilege. We had plenty technology here that was eroded/annihilated by colonialism. You did us zero favours by colonising us.”
To which Zille then responded, “Well, you clearly don’t understand black privilege. It is being able to loot a country and steal hundreds of billions and get re-elected. If ppl want permanent poverty for the masses they are going about it the right way. #BlackPrivilege.”
Well you clearly don't understand black privilege. It is being able to loot a country and steal hundreds of billions and get re-elected. If ppl want permanent poverty for the masses they are going about it the right way. #BlackPrivilege
— Helen Zille (@helenzille) May 17, 2019
This wasn’t the first time the outgoing premier’s views on Twitter have brought her into disrepute.
In 2017, she infamously articulated a view that the legacy of colonialism was not wholly negative.
That time the DA set up a disciplinary process for its former leader, which later fell away after she agreed to step down from party activities and apologise for the tweets.
In April she was again caught in a crossfire after she once again defended her colonialism tweets saying, “I didn’t say anything like that. Colonnialism (sic) was terrible. But its legacy is not only negative. If you can’t tell the difference between those two statements, I feel sorry for you.”
I didn't say anything like that. Colonnialism was TERRIBLE. But its LEGACY is not ONLY negative. If you can't tell the difference between those two statements, I feel sorry for you.
— Helen Zille (@helenzille) April 5, 2019
According to the City Press article, party leader Mmusi Maimane objected to the federal legal commission recommendation on charges for the black privilege tweets and the federal council’s decision to consider paying Zille’s legal costs but was defeated on both counts.