News / South Africa

Steven Tau
3 minute read
21 Mar 2017
4:25 pm

Maimane lashes out at Zille in Human Rights Day speech

Steven Tau

Maimane said no level of infrastructure and development could ever erase the pain that many people felt under apartheid.

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane hit out at the party’s former leader Helen Zille’s recent controversial tweets on colonialism in his Human Rights Day speech in Soweto on Tuesday.

Addressing party supporters in Sharpeville, south of Johannesburg on Tuesday, Maimane said no level of infrastructure and development could ever erase the pain that many people felt under apartheid and colonialism.

Many South Africans, particularly black people, had paid a high price in pursuit of freedom, he said, adding that development forced on a country under the threat of violence was not
progress.

“Today, we think back to the dark days when people were oppressed and impoverished by the dehumanising system of colonialism and then apartheid,” he said.

“Colonialism and apartheid stripped South Africans of their human dignity, and slavery, forced labour, displacement, violent subjugation and racial classification with its humiliating tests that made people think they were inferior because of the colour of their skin, industrialised exploitation – these things are all  – and much else besides – the legacy of those systems of repression and exploitation.

“There are some people who believe that this was the price of development and infrastructure. Well, if this was the price of development, then I say this price was too high.

“As the DA, I say this unashamedly, we will always stand for the rights of individuals, and systems such as apartheid and colonialism sought to undermine the rights of individuals and as a party, we cannot condone any aspect of that.”

The DA was conducting an investigation into the tweets by Zille, the premier of the Western Cape.

Last week,  Zille tweeted: “For those claiming legacy of colonialism was only negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc.”

She later apologised, saying her tweets were not meant to defend colonialism.

Maimane also took a swipe at the governing ANC, saying their view was that in 1994 they had defeated a race, whereas it was South Africa that defeated a system of oppression.

He said the DA was the only party that recognised that black, white, Indian and coloured people could stand together to build a nation for all. “We will never allow anyone to divide us on the basis of race,” he said.

“If the ANC still defends human rights, where were they when [Sudan President] Omar al-Bashir was walking around after having killed Africans in South Sudan?

“They gave him permission to leave the country … how can you say you defend human rights but in truth you defend Bashir? How do you say you defend human rights when people exercise their right to protest in Marikana and you shoot them?

“How do you say you defend human rights when you ship off Life Esidimeni patients without their families knowing? It is a shame that this current government claims that they are defenders of human rights.”

Maimane, who was accompanied by the mayors of Tshwane and Johannesburg and other party leaders, laid a wreath at the Sharpeville memorial site.

READ MORE:

Maimane says there are no sacred cows in the DA

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