‘Colonialism not all negative’: South African politician under fire for tweets
Helen Zille, former head of the Democratic Alliance Party and the current premier of the Western cape tweeted: "For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water."
She followed this message with a tweet saying that the nation’s "specialised healthcare and medication" may have not been possible without "colonial influence".
Would we have had a transition into specialised health care and medication without colonial influence? Just be honest, please.— Helen Zille (@helenzille) March 16, 2017
The tweets were posted in the context of analysing Singapore's economic success.
Zille signed off the thread by telling the Twitteratti she was getting on a plane and will be “cutting off those who think every aspect of colonialism is bad.”
Getting onto an aeroplane now and won't get onto the wi-fi so that I can cut off those who think EVERY aspect of colonial legacy was bad.— Helen Zille (@helenzille) March 16, 2017
As she anticipated, Zille quickly felt the backlash when social media users, opposition politicians and even her own party colleagues condemned her comments.
Democratic Alliance leader, Mmusi Maimane, who replaced Zille as party chief in 2015, led the way in criticizing his predecessor’s remarks.
Let's make this clear: Colonialism, like Apartheid, was a system of oppression and subjugation. It can never be justified.— Mmusi Maimane (@MmusiMaimane) March 16, 2017
It's like saying Nazism was good for German democracy and their advancements in technology. https://t.co/BY40e2MSsL— Mbali Ntuli (@mbalimcdust) March 16, 2017
Colonialism was a crime against humanity. There isn't a single aspect of it that can be said to be positive or beneficial to Africans.— Phumzile Van Damme (@zilevandamme) March 16, 2017
The party issued a statement confirming that Zille had been referred to the Federal Legal Commission for investigation.
South African residents also blasted the politician’s opinions as “privileged” and called for action from the Democratic Alliance Party.
No Helen Zille, colonialism did not bring 'development' to Africa. It brought oppression, exploitation, racism, poverty, etc, etc, etc. pic.twitter.com/mz9oqp19df— Ulrich J van Vuuren (@UlrichJvV) March 16, 2017
If #HelenZille get away with ths then we don't have leaders in South Africa. A racist leader is worse than a corrupt leader— Sam ramolobe (@kutsam) March 16, 2017
Zille has since issued an apology for the tweets, claiming she was not trying to defend colonialism.
I apologise unreservedly for a tweet that may have come across as a defence of colonialism. It was not.— Helen Zille (@helenzille) March 16, 2017