Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has given the Western Cape legislature 30 days to take action against its premier, Helen Zille, since she was found to have violated the executive ethics code when she made a controversial statement about colonialism last year.
Mkhwebane was giving feedback on investigations her office had conducted, including the controversial tweet by Zille last year, which led to the premier agreeing to vacate her position on all decision-making structures within the DA.
Zille was found to have violated provisions of the executive ethics code, as her comments were inconsiderate and disrespectful to those who were victims of apartheid and colonialism.
“Although the tweet could have been made in the context of the premier’s right to freedom of expression as provided in section 16 of the constitution and in good faith, it was, however, offensive and insensitive to a section of the South African population which regarded it as re-opening a lot of pain and suffering to the victims of apartheid and colonialism, particularly considering the position of influence she holds.”
In March last year, Zille tweeted: “For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport, infrastructure, piped water, etc.”
The premier has since apologised, but according to Mkhwebane, Zille refused to budge and stood by her defence that she was practicing her right to freedom of expression.
She said Zille also showed misconduct in terms of provisions of the constitution, and her statements were “not consistent with the integrity of her office and position. The negative responses to the tweet imply that divisions of the past are still not healed”.
“Section 16 of the constitution was therefore not created to allow anyone, particularly those in positions of influence, to make such statements. Subsection 16(2) (b) was created to curb such statements … Her apology can be interpreted as recognition of the negative impact the tweet had on the dignity of a section of the South African population.”
Earlier this year, Zille landed in hot water again when she responded to “gloating” Johannesburg residents that “karma was a real bitch” when a social media user rejoiced in Cape Town’s water crisis. Zille has since deleted the tweet and issued an apology.