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March 16, 2017 | Uhuruspirit

Former DA Leader Helen Zille

Former South African main opposition leader Helen Zille will face a disciplinary process by her Democratic Alliance (DA) party after appearing to defend colonialism on Twitter on Thursday.

The incident caused a public outcry, with critics saying Zille's comments risked fanning the racial tensions that endure more than two decades after the end of apartheid rule. The ruling ANC denounced her words as reckless.

"For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc," Zille, a white South African, said on Twitter.

"Would we have had a transition into specialized health care and medication without colonial influence? Just be honest, please," she said in a later tweet.

South Africa was colonized by the Dutch and the British for about 300 years. The country then experienced white minority rule under apartheid during which the black population were treated as slaves.

Zille, who is the premier of the Western Cape province, has apologized but her party leader condemned her comments.

"She should face a disciplinary process in the party," Mmusi Maimane told 702 Talk Radio. "Her actions, her statement was completely unacceptable and indefensible," Maimane added.

Maimane, who took the reins as the DA's first black national leader in 2015, last year led the party to strong gains in a local election, taking the capital Pretoria and commercial hub Johannesburg from the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

The DA has a strong following among white South Africans.

The ANC urged Maimane and his party to remove Zille from her position immediately over "her reckless and ignorant claims" on colonialism.

The ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said Zille’s tweet was "nothing short of the type of posture you would expect from a colonial apologist".

"It is deeply saddening and troubling that we still have in our midst leaders who, on the one side swear by the very Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, yet on the other still harbour such deep seated views that venerate in whatever degree the unjust system of exploitation, subjugation and oppression as colonialism was and continues to be," he said.

"If the DA is truly committed to building a non-racial, non-sexist and equal society and it if is honest about acknowledging colonialism and apartheid systems for what they are, a crime against humanity, then nothing short of recalling Helen Zille will send a more stronger message that there is no place in democratic South Africa for leaders that are apologists for such cruel and unjust systems whose long-term effect continue to hold our people back to this day."

Many DA leaders and members have been caught in recent times making racist and xenophobic remarks.

The city of Johannesburg Mayor, Herman Mashaba was recently accused of making xenophobic remarks that instigated attacks against African immigrants.

The DA last year revoked the membership of Penny Sparrow after a Facebook post in which she referred to black people as "monkeys" went viral. A court later ordered Sparrow to pay 150,000 rand ($11,780) to charity after she was found guilty of hate speech.

Standard Bank economist Chris Hart resigned last year after he tweeted in January that black people had "a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities".

White senior judge Mabel Jansen was publicly criticised over racist comments about black culture and rape.

Zille's comments is definitely a major setback for the DA at a time the party is working hard to attract more black supporters ahead of the next election in 2019.

- with Reuters

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