Citizen Reporter
3 minute read
22 Oct 2019
9:28 am

Outrage at colonialism tweets ‘fake’, driven by Bell Pottinger-type network – Zille

Citizen Reporter

The newly elected DA federal council chairperson says she spent R50,000 on analysing the controversy her tweets caused.

DA federal chairperson Helen Zille on JJ Tabane's show, Your View, on Newzroom Afrika, October 21, 2019. Picture: Screenshot.

During an interview on Newzroom Afrika, the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) new federal council chairperson, Helen Zille, was asked about the controversy surrounding her tweets on colonialism.

Zille said she has spent R50,000 of her “own money” to have the social media storm she found herself in “analysed” and it was determined that the “vast majority” of the outrage was faked.

“I have spent a lot of money, R50,000 of my own money having that entire social media thing very closely dis-aggregated and analysed, and the vast majority of the outrage that was generated by that was by linked computers and fake accounts, bots and sockpuppets, driven by a kind of Bell Pottinger network,” she said.

Asked by her interviewer Onkgopotse ‘JJ’ Tabane why she publicly apologised for her tweets if the outrage surrounding them was faked, Zille said: “We didn’t know about it at the time.”

Zille previously told Tabane she believed “everything gets distorted and taken out of context” on social media.

“There are huge amounts of people in South Africa who spend their lives looking for reasons to be offended, there are many people who trawl social media the whole day until they find something to be profoundly offended by, and then they will mobilise a whole army of people defending people who have been offended who they don’t even know,” she said.

READ MORE: Zille back to defending colonialism on Twitter

Zille had harsh words not just for social media but for more traditional forms of media too.

“The truth is if I got out of bed in the morning and said the sky is blue people will say you can hear that she’s racist because she says the sky is blue which is the DA’s colour. People are crazy, I mean if I sneeze they think it’s a story in the newspaper,” she said.

After Zille threw her hat in the ring as a candidate for federal council chairperson, it was reported in Business Day that the controversy that saw Zille face internal disciplinary action in the DA over her controversial tweets on the legacy of colonialism might have a bearing on her eligibility to run.

The DA’s presiding officer of federal council elections, Desiree Van Der Walt, said such reports were incorrect.

“We wish to dismiss this notion,” she said at the time.

In 2017, Zille publicly agreed to vacate all positions of authority in the party and refrain from all party activities. She, however, subsequently engaged in a great deal of the latter, including campaigning for the party in this year’s elections.

Zille said at the time that she was “a member in good standing” and said she wasn’t taking reports of the party seeking legal advice on her prospects at all seriously. She maintained there was nothing stopping her from standing for any position in the DA.

In June 2017 she “apologised unreservedly” for her tweets, though subsequently returned to earnestly defending her views.

(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Background reporting, Charles Cilliers.) 

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