Over the years, South Africa has seen its fair share of Helen Zille Twitter drama.
The latest instalment in the series involves the DA federal council chairperson tweeting that “there are more racist laws today than there were under apartheid”, and subsequent refusal to back down.
We covered it last week, in-depth, here, so I’m going to avoid rehashing the basics.
What is remarkable is that, at the time of writing, it has been more than a week since Zille’s last tweet, so perhaps this time the penny has dropped.
That penny would be the fact that whether or not you agree with Zille’s sentiment, it’s irrefutable that in order to regain lost ground from a set of humbling election results in 2019, the DA needs to broaden its support base, and her tweets aren’t helping.
In a scathing TimesLIVE column, Max du Preez has really gone to town on Zille, saying her recent “mindless, Trump-esque Twitter bomb” has even those closest to her asking some serious question about what’s going on with her.
Max and Helen have clashed quite regularly over the past few years (perhaps most notably on one episode of Tea With Helen), so he has an axe to grind, but he raises some valid questions:
How did she move from being a progressive anti-apartheid activist, a dynamic politician who has done more than anyone else to make the DA a real factor in SA politics, the best mayor in the country and an outstanding premier, to a reactionary unguided missile that is systematically destroying her party from the inside?
…In the storm after her tweet, even the Freedom Front Plus said her statement wasn’t true. Only extreme right-wingers and obvious racists defended her tweet.
Zille seemed unrepentant and sniped at her critics in her own party – and she is the DA’s federal council chair. She had an angry exchange on Twitter with senior DA MP Phumzile van Damme, who accused her “faction” of “terrorising” their opponents in the DA…
And so the caricature of the DA as a white-led party with a bunch of deeply unhappy but powerless black representatives was reinforced.
That’s what really is so sad about all of this. Having spent so much her life fighting against the evils of apartheid, she’s now dragging that legacy through the mud, and carries on regardless of the fact that those closest to her are begging for the tweets to end.
Du Preez says that perhaps Zille is moving more to the right in order to reclaim voters who chose the Freedom Front Plus in the last election, but that ship has largely sailed.
If the DA is to make any ground, or even hang on to the same dismal numbers it received last year, it must court non-white voters.
Back to du Preez, who first met Zille in 1976, and says he has never seen evidence of her being racist. That tide is starting to turn, though:
But events of the past few years made me suspect that deep down she believes that her party – and perhaps more than just her party – should be led by white people. If true, is that not racist?
She hand-picked young black leaders like Maimane and Lindiwe Mazibuko and pushed them into leadership roles, but when she discovered that they were not merely her puppets, that they had their own views and approaches which often differed from hers, she targeted and undermined them…
History will not remember Helen Zille as an anti-apartheid campaigner or a great administrator, but as the individual who made sure that the DA would forever be tainted as a party caring only about white interests.
Time and time again, the ANC proves itself to be a criminally corrupt party that willfully sold South Africa’s soul for the personal enrichment of those at the top of the party’s food chain.
Having been handed such ineptitude, the fact that the DA has failed to capitalise over the past four years speaks volumes about what’s been going on both inside its corridors of power, and on the Twitter streets.
You can point to clean audit bills in metropolitans run by the party, and other areas where the DA is streaks ahead of the ANC, but until people of colour feel represented by the DA its growth will remain stagnant, or worse.
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