Zille apologises: Premier keeps job in deal to shore up DA’s pre-election unity


Helen Zille received a watered-down sanction over her tweets on colonialism, with the DA averting a messy and divisive battle in the run-up to the 2019 elections.

Zille and DA leader Mmusi Maimane flanked each other at a media briefing announcing the settlement on the matter.

But it was clear the relationship was tense.

The DA has been criticised by the ANC and other parties for its soft approach in dealing with a senior leader over her alleged racist comments.

DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard also shared a racist Facebook post but her expulsion from the party was overturned.

Zille apologised unreservedly yesterday for her tweets as part of the political settlement.

According to the deal, Zille keeps her job as premier, but steps down from all party structures at national and provincial government. Her public communications should be limited to her role as premier, which concludes when her term ends in 18 months. And, if she does communicate on party matters, it has to be approved by party channels.

At the media briefing Zille said she had reflected and recognised the offence caused by her tweet and comments on the matter.

She said colonialism and apartheid had seen the majority of South Africans subjugated and oppressed on the basis of race and this was indefensible. Zille said she did not justify, defend or praise colonialism in any way.

Zille said she had changed her views on the matter after “reflecting very hard” and after discussions with Maimane and other party leaders. She said she wanted to be part of ensuring that the DA’s project to govern South Africa succeeded and not be part of the reason it failed.

It is understood the reason Maimane – who had led the charge against Zille – preferred a political settlement to end the stalemate was to avoid having the Zille matter fester until the 2019 election and divide the party in the crucial election campaign.

“This has not been an easy decision. The alternative was to become embroiled in a protracted legal battle in the lead-up to the 2019 election,” Maimane said.

“I have no doubt this would have done further damage to the project we have embarked upon, to the detriment of every South African committed to nonracialism and constitutionalism.”

Maimane said the decision was a difficult one but reconciliation remained a critical imperative.

Zille expressed regret for undermining Maimane’s leadership.

“Mmusi Maimane is the democratically elected leader of the DA and we must all get behind his leadership,” she said.

On the EFF warning to remove Zille, Maimane said he did not get involved in internal EFF matters and expected the same of that party.

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