Unanimous verdict: Helen Zille is a national heroine, not a political villain – Saffers speak

Helen Zille is a lot like marmite – you either like her or you don’t. Here on BizNews, the support for the DA stalwart has been overwhelming. Helen, like the rest of us, has her faults, historian and Oxford don RW Johnson reminds us, in one of the most popular pieces published this year on BizNews. And, Helen Zille herself has been reflecting deeply on these, concluding that her greatest error has been to fall into a trap involving race narratives. Zille has shared these thoughts, in an article first published in Rapport and republished on BizNews with permission. But, as far as her Twitter mistakes and controversies are concerned: she remains fairly unrepentant. Instead of obsessing over these, however, the DA should focus on Zille’s achievements – which include running a corruption-free province – is the message from the BizNews community. It’s clear that Helen Zille has many fans in urban areas, which is the heart of the BizNews audience. – Jackie Cameron

By Thulasizwe Sithole

Political scientist and author RW Johnson has rallied to the defence of former DA leader Helen Zille, who has been vilified by her own party and even encouraged to leave South Africa.

Helen Zille, meanwhile, has penned a thoughtful piece in which she assesses her shortcomings, concluding that she will continue to Tweet – although her Tweets have been controversial.

Her greatest failure, she says, has been to not fight hard enough to prevent the DA from entering the ANC/EFF’s “race narrative” arena.

“What’s more, I actually sometimes facilitated our entry and (even worse) proceeded to play their game,” says the former journalist.

“It was a game we should never have engaged because it was impossible to compete, and undesirable to win. The rules of this game meant that winning would strip us of one of our primary reasons for existence – to promote genuine and inclusive non-racialism.”

Johnson writes that the DA is currently in a fairly toxic state. He highlights that the DA should focus on Zille’s strengths and commitment to doing the right thing. Zille’s achievements, he reminds us, include that:

  • Zille was declared World Mayor of the Year in 2008, something no other South African mayor of any party has done;
  • Later, in her 10 years as Western Cape premier, the Western Cape maintained top position on every indicator as by far the best run province;
  • Corruption was kept at bay on her watch.

“At no point in that entire decade has there been even the slightest corruption scandal. The DA’s whole claim to better and cleaner governance – its main selling point – rests very largely on what Ms Zille achieved as mayor and premier. It is simply indecorous for the DA leadership to keep launching attacks on Zille while continuing to boast at every opportunity about the Western Cape’s clean audits, its lower unemployment rate, its higher economic growth rate and so on,” says Johnson.

“Ms Zille has her faults but I have been a practising political scientist for over fifty years and have studied the politics of many countries. My rough and ready rule is that if you have a public representative who is rigorously honest, works like a demon and is unafraid to speak their mind, hang on to them for you won’t do better,” continues Johnson, in a piece originally published on Politicsweb.

Most BizNews visitors appear to agree with Johnson. Ludwig Churr‘s response has shot to the top of the pile, with dozens of likes:

The DA should take RW Johnson advice and stop fulminating against HZ”

Morena Zwekwati  is also hugely impressed with Johnson’s article.

Wow. Respect, for Mr Johnson has surely got the testicular fortitude to write an essay like this. A pragmatist of note. Well done sir. On Zille: She has also said before the election that DA voters should support Musi Maimane for he has been able to win coalitions in Tswane, Joburg and PE for the DA. Something I have been unable to achieve myself. .. And now this backstabbing vendetta against her. DA is self-destructing.

Maimane – LEARN!” added Glyn Morgan

serfah is seriously stoked on HZ, saying: “gree – I think Zille’s the most brilliant politician we’ve ever had..She remains so.”

Flaming Welsh reckons the DA’s days are numbered unless it rethinks its approach.

After many years of being against the government I have seen that every political party that stops fighting for a workable principle and chases votes for financial profit of the leaders or the pathetic semblance of power is already in the final nose-dive of self destruction. This party has trashed both “Democracy” and “Alliance” to the degree that it is in immediate and obvious danger of becoming another insignificant footnote in history.

Storm Ferguson is also an HZ fan. HZ’s management has proven itself. Unfortunately the DA’s leadership management style is atrocious as pointed out by RW Johnson. I too split my vote. Time for a new party to be formed to take up the initial DA manifesto?”

J Gathercole is yet another BizNews visitor who believes that HZ is the best thing since sliced bread.

I completely agree with Bill Johson’s comments. Helen Zille is the best thing that ever happened to the city of Cape Town and to the Western Cape and to the Democratic Alliance! One of very few South African politicians of the last few decades who can look back on a thoroughly successful and rewarding career. Go well Helen and grateful thanks from me.

Erfnistrust holds Johnson AND HZ in high regard. Responding to the Johnson article, the commentator said:

Fantastic article. Welcome to hear the truth so well spoken and supported by solid arguments, The leadership vacuum opens the door for a new dawn/political direction. Leaders that actually want to implement the constitution and create jobs in the private sector, protect and extend property rights, alleviate poverty, ensure clean governance, attract investment and end racism in all its forms are noticeably absent. The small parties like Cope, IFP, ACDP, UDM has the ingredients for a winning recipe but lack the leadership of the stature of Hellen Zille, Van Zyl Slabbert, Zac de Beer that can motiviate people to follow them. The official opposition need to find those leaders fast and party structures has to support them through think and thin and forgive them their weaknesses (as we all suffer from those). If they don’t, we will all suffer even more than under Zuma when Rhamaposa will be the only one yielding real power. His power will have to accommodate all kinds of unproductive forces including continued criminal intent. 

Helen Zille’s reflections on her political errors won her even more fans, here on BizNews.

Said Daan:

“Now I like you more!

DA has abandoned its liberal principles and started flirting with what they think is more popular political viewpoints. They became a shadow of the ANC, A political party that abandons its principals and follow popular rhetoric in order to win votes displays absence of integrity and conviction. I also did not vote DA because I did not hear them once promoting their policy, only pestering through e-mails and phone calls to tell me they are a better alternative than the ANC or EFF. To me, their election message that I heard was ” vote for me, I am not as kak as the other two”. They alienated white voters in the hope of winning more black votes in the naive expectation that intelligent black voters will not see through their strategy.

Go for it, Helen!”

Ken Meyer is also hugely impressed with HZ’s candid reflections.

Helen Zille is the embodiment of the old saying: Africa is not for sissies. She is not afraid to confront people with the truth, and not run with the herd. Such courage is one of the main ingredients in a functioning democracy. Nelson Mandela acknowledged that many times.”

Geoff Smailes, who has perhaps had more to say about this issue than any other BizNews commentator, summed up the positive sentiment towards HZ.

Dear Helen Zille. In my book you have nothing to apologise for. If any explanations or apologies are due, they are due by the DA officials (as a collective) to you, as well as to us, DA supporters and voters. The DA also needs to deal with the contradiction of its claim to being non-racist, while simultaneously supporting AA / B-BBEE policies.
You have done a brave and great job in a vicious and abnormal polical landscape, which is liberally littered with unrehabilitatable tsotsis.
You stand head and shoulders above ALL of your detractors: please do not submit to their idiotic criticisms.”

Andrew Blaine also made a personal appeal to HZ.

Dear Helen,
It was never what you said that caused the opprobrium, it was the arena in which you said it and the audience in that arena.
There is a significant sector of South African society that supports your viewpoint. Dont stip sating it as you see it, please!

Jörn Miller has a similar opinion.

I am so pleased you are not apologising for speaking the truth. We are society of spineless wimps when we have to shout down a granny speaking the truth (even when it hurts). Your DA colleagues should be ashamed for not rallying behind you, instead, falling for the ANC/EFF bait, hook, line, and sinker. To read that you will continue in the political domain is great news indeed.

Peter Rossfour penned a particularly heart-felt response to the attacks on HZ.


Slogans and Sayings – Peter Rossfour (unpublished)

Dear Helen Zille, there is no need for you to apologize for anything. You’ve done an absolutely sterling job. You remind me of Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron” lady, the same fierce spirit and determination. As far as I’m concerned there never has been, and I doubt if there ever will be again, a SA politician of your calibre and integrity. Hats off to you!

Having said that, personally I think the rot in the DA set in the day Maimane chose to attack you publicly about your “Oh-so-true” and definitely inoffensive tweet about colonialism. instead of supporting you as was his sworn duty, not only as a colleague but also as the DA party leader. and unfortunately. the rot has festered and grown bigger, witness the appalling performance of the DA in the Schweizer Reneke and Coligny matters.

Thankfully a decent party like the Freedom Front Plus gained by the DA’s slide into which will eventually result in inconsequential politics if they don’t change their tune soon. The 2019 election results should give them plenty food for thought. Yet Maimane blames the Whites for deserting the party, and not his own stupid, nearly juvenile actions, especially as far as it concerns you. The man is a sucker for punishment.

Unfortunately, the DA somewhere along the way. has lost its soul and I don’t know if they can win it back without major policy changes. It has to go back to its grassroots ideology, something, Helen, you worked for ceaselessly. No political party can thrive and grow by pandering to the strongest opposition like the DA is currently doing with the ANC.

What worries me is that Maimane is steadily moving towards the race card, witness his total silence on the brutal farm murders plaguing our already embattled country, among other things. I doubt if he can view white voters and their role in the DA impartially. Some commentators have even gone as far as to suggest he should join the ANC as their outlook and prejudiced, jaundiced disposition to an inclusive form of non-racialism, seems to fit more with his ambitions.

Sadly, and for all those crossed-eyed race-mongers out there, it has nothing to do with race, Maimane was a poor replacement for you, as he’s shown over and over again. I fear he has feet of clay. I cannot see Maimane lead the DA to significant gains in the 2021 elections, not unless he recognises he’s lost the plot and does not know where the bells are ringing. And they’re certainly not ringing in the ANC camp. But then, he’s not alone in his straying from the path, most of the DA’s top echelon seem to be equally deluded.

What the DA needs now more than ever is a strong, dedicated leader with strong ideological goals (like you were, dear Helen Zille) who will not dream of pandering to the whims and wishes pf the ANC and its allies, the EFF. Where they’re going to find such a person is anybody’s guess.
Your comment, “my most recent tweets were precisely geared at exposing the fallacy of racial generalisations, and the double standards that lie behind the dominant narrative of identity politics (which involves laying sole blame on minorities, for the country’s problems).” goes to the heart of the matter of what’s wrong with our country at present. The ANC was not even successful as a liberation organisation, the infighting even then crippled the movement, and are as inept at ruling a country of South Africa’s diversity and racial dynamics. They’re simply not capable of running even a third rate brothel, as the last nine years under that unbelievable dunce and uber-thug, Jacob Zuma, has admirably shown the world, to the detriment of the country and its people.

This passage in your article I find deeply disturbing ,”The immediate “casus belli” was a statement I made, in a series of tweeted observations on my Lessons from Singapore, that the LEGACY of colonialism was not ONLY negative. This has been said scores of times before, by black South African leaders including Nelson Mandela, and appears in many post-apartheid history textbooks authored by black historians. It is a statement backed by almost every respected historian in the world.

But because it caused offence to our political opponents (most of them elite, university educated devotees of identity politics who would never vote for us anyway), the DA seized on the chance to further “purify” the party.

I was suspended, and when this still didn’t work, they tried to entice me to leave South Africa. The DA even found a donor to generously sponsor their strategy. If I disappeared, they reckoned, the party would at last be seen as “transformed”.

When I politely declined to resign as Premier and leave the country, I was banished from all party activities.” If they can do this to a person of your status and calibre, the one person who pulled the DA up by its bootstraps, to its present position in politics, what else are they capable of? It smacks far too much of the ANC’s deplorable tactics.

My quote, “BRAVE HEART WINS FAIR LADY – ONLY SOMETIMES THOUGH” at the top of my article refers to you, dear Helen. I’ve never had the privilege of meeting you, but I admire you and am thankful for what you’ve done so selflessly over the years to ensure a free and just country for all who live in it. THANK YOU!

The fact you didn’t win fair lady, in spite of your brave heart, is not your doing. We’re saddled with political demographics that favor populist and racially divisive parties like the ANC and EFF. Unfortunately, the ANC has gone out of its way to bolster the illusion of “White Monopoly Capital”, endorsed by the other equally as brain-dead top echelons of the EFF. In a recent speech Malema promised his followers he would DEMAND among other things a wheel chair for every single disabled person in the country. I doubt though he had any whites in mind. But that’s beside the point, my question to the man is where does he think the money’s going to come from to satisfy all his DEMANDS? He despises the “white” capitalist system yet in private he loves living it up at the elite Inanda Club. Hypocrisy, double standards, and outright lies to the electorate.
And as for the party you captained to become the official opposition – all indications are they will soon lose that distinction. Sadly though, I cannot help but wonder – IS SUCH A PARTY WORTHY OF MY VOTE?


Over on Alec Hogg’s Facebook page, opinions were strongly in favour of showing appreciation to Helen Zille for her contribution to society.

Top Fan Lynne Bamford Lotter summed up the sentiment: “She is a great lady doing great things for the SA Nation!”

Kurt Wucherpfennig agreed: “No politician has done more than Zille for a people who are largely ignorant of her contribution.”

Share your views, by commenting below this article.

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