Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane says Western Premier Helen Zille’s decision to apologise unreservedly for her controversial tweets defending aspects of colonialism’s legacy is a quality that sets her apart from many other political leaders in South Africa.
Zille said at a press conference with Maimane on Tuesday that she apologised unreservedly for having written that not all aspects of colonialism’s legacy were bad.
Addressing the media on Tuesday morning in Rosebank, Johannesburg, Maimane – who’s been at loggerheads with the former DA leader following her suspension from the party last week – admitted that Zille’s tweets had done damage to race relations in the country and set the party back on its recent electoral successes.
“It’s therefore deeply unfortunate that we have expended energy dealing with Helen Zille’s tweet of 16 March and its fallout. Let me say from the outset that Helen Zille’s record in fighting apartheid and her contribution to a democratic SA speaks for itself,” Maimane said.
“But there’s no question her tweet and subsequent defence of it did damage to race relations in SA and set us back as a party. All of us, especially leaders in our society, must remain mindful that colonialism was not a victimless crime.”
The DA leader announced that the Western Cape premier had agreed it would be in the best interests of the party for her to vacate her position on all decision-making structures of the party. This included, Maimane said, her position on the Federal Executive, Federal Council and Provincial Council.
“In addition, her political communication from this point onward will focus on matters relating to the Western Cape government where she will remain premier. If she wishes to communicate on any other political issues, she will abide by the sign-off protocols of the DA.
“I believe this agreement allows us to draw a line under an unfortunate episode and move on in the best interests of all South Africans,” he said.
Maimane said the decision by his party wasn’t an easy decision, and the alternative would have been the DA being “embroiled in a protracted legal battle in the lead-up to the 2019 election”.