AFTER daring DA leader Mmusi Maimane for months and triggering unprecedented divisions in the party, Western Cape premier Helen Zille has finally apologised for her offensive pro-colonialism tweets following her suspension.
Zille rendered her apology on Tuesday in Johannesburg stating that after much debate and reflection, she recognised the offence caused by her tweet.
“I therefore apologise unreservedly to the South African public who were offended by this tweet and my subsequent explanation of it,” she said.
Zille added that in South Africa, colonialism and apartheid subjugated and oppressed a majority, and benefitted 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,” she said.
Zille came under heavy criticism when she tweeted that colonialism had laid the foundation for some of the world class infrastructure enjoyed in the country.
She subsequently defended the tweet and refused to apologise when requested to do so.
Earlier in the month, the DA’s Federal Executive subsequently resolved to suspend her from all party structures and matters.
She however kept her position as premier. She was given the opportunity to give reasons why she should not be suspended.
As the battle for the control of the organisation raged on, Maimane and Zille exchanged verbal blows. A few hours after Maimane announced Zille’s suspension, she hit back accusing the party’s leadership of prosecuting her without affording her the opportunity to defend herself.
In a statement hours after Maimane announced her suspension, Zille had insisted that the Federal Executive’s decision to suspend her did not comply with Section 3.6.3 of the party’s constitution.
She had dismissed Maimane’s statement that she had refused to apologise.
“What i have not agreed to do is plead guilty to charges of misconduct which i never committed. Because the DA stands for freedom and fairness, we need to follow due process of law, especially when this is initiated by the leader himself,” Zille wrote.
“I have not accepted that the DA has a right to find me guilty and penalise me before the hearing even takes place. I cannot be bullied into resigning or incriminating myself.”
She however changed her tune on Tuesday stating that during the period she made public utterances that have had the effect of undermining Maimane 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,” she said.
Maimane, in accepting the apology, said he was angered by the tweet as it was undermining the party’s work to unite the country.
“I was personally angered by Helen Zille’s tweet and I know that many others were as well. This is why I took immediate action to correct the impression that these were the DA’s views. I wanted people to understand that, under my leadership, the DA is working work hard to reconcile South Africans – black and white – in pursuit of a common vision of progress and prosperity for all,” he said.
Maimane added that he had several engagements with Zille on the subject of her tweet. He said they have not always agreed on everything but did not see that as a negative thing. Zille and Maimane lead different DA factions.
“As a leader, my job is to listen, to engage and to set the political direction of the party. In the course of our engagements, Helen Zille realised that her tweet and some of the communication that followed was hurtful to many people, and particularly black South Africans. Her acknowledgement of this was a huge step forward for us,” he said.