South Africa’s main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has suspended former leader Helen Zille for saying earlier this year that the legacy of colonialism was not entirely negative, the party said on Saturday.
Critics said at the time that her remarks risked fanning the racial tensions that endure more than two decades after the end of apartheid rule. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) described her words — made on Twitter in March — as reckless.
Zille, a white South African who is currently premier of Western Cape province, said in the tweet: “For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc.”
Her suspension was announced by DA leader Mmusi Maimane.
“Our federal executive has resolved that Zille be suspended from all party-related activities until such time that a disciplinary hearing is concluded,” said Maimane, the party’s first black leader.
Zille said later in a statement on Twitter that she had apologised publicly for her remarks, but had “not agreed to … plead guilty to charges of misconduct which I never committed.”
Maimane added that Zille would remain premier of the Western Cape, which has the tourist hub of Cape Town as its capital and is a DA stronghold. It is the only province not governed by the ANC.
President Jacob Zuma’s scandal-plagued rule has exposed divisions in the ANC and Maimane fancies his party’s chances to cobble together a governing coalition after 2019’s general elections.
The DA wrestled control of three major cities from the ANC in local elections last year as it strives to win more support from black voters and rely less on its largely white base.
Whites, who comprise less than 10 percent of the population, are still on average much wealthier than other groups in Africa’s most advanced economy.