Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has apologised for her offensive tweet about colonialism.
She made the apology at a joint media briefing with Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Maimane confirmed that Zille would no longer participate in any party leadership structures but would remain premier of the Western Cape.
In March‚ Zille said on Twitter: “For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative‚ think of our independent judiciary‚ transport infrastructure‚ piped water.”
But on Tuesday she acknowledged that her comments were insensitive to those who had suffered under colonialism.
“Her acknowledgement is a huge step forward and it’s important that she is offering South Africans full acknowledgement and an apology‚” said Maimane.
The parties reached a settlement to avoid a protracted and damaging battle.
Zille was suspended earlier this month from all party activities‚ pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing for bringing the party into disrepute.
The suspension caused sharp divisions within the party and among supporters on the ground.
Zille defiantly continued to defend her comments and declined an initial request by Maimane to “tender an unconditional apology to the people of South Africa” .
But a downcast Zille performed an about-turn on Tuesday‚ acknowledging that her tweet – and subsequent defence of it – was insensitive to South Africans who had suffered under colonial oppression.
“For this‚ I am genuinely sorry‚” she said.
She said that her public utterances had undermined Maimane.
“My intention is now to do everything I can to restore public trust that has been eroded‚” Zille said.
“Helen realised that her (comment) was hurtful and in particular to black South Africans‚” said Maimane.
Zille handed over the reins as leader of the party to Maimane in 2015.
Read the apology in full:
After a period of debate and reflection‚ I recognise the offence caused by my tweet on 16 March 2017 with regard to the legacy of colonialism. I therefore apologise unreservedly to the South African public who were offended by this tweet and my subsequent explanation of it.
In South Africa‚ colonialism and apartheid subjugated and oppressed a majority‚ and benefited a minority‚ on the basis of race. This is indeed indefensible‚ and I do not support‚ justify‚ praise or promote it.
I realise the wounds of history that my tweet and subsequent defence of it has opened. In particular‚ I recognise that my actions were insensitive to South Africans who suffered under colonial oppression. For this‚ I am genuinely sorry.
During this period I have made public utterances that have had the effect of undermining the leader of the Democratic Alliance and the project he is leading. I greatly regret this. Mmusi Maimane is the democratically elected leader of the DA and we must all get behind his leadership.
My intention now is to do everything I can to restore the public trust that has been eroded. Now‚ more than ever‚ we need to unite behind a shared vision of one nation‚ with one future.