Helen Zille has been joined by her party in condemning a report by the Public Protector which finds that a tweet she had made on colonialism was unconstitutional and contravened a code applying to people in high office
Zille said she had already advised the public protector that – in her view – the protector’s finding would be unlawful “and irrational”.
From what had been announced at a press conference, the premier said it was likely she would take this report on judicial review.
Independent Newspapers, which makes no bones about supporting the African National Congress, reported that the Democratic Alliance had sprung to Zille’s defence. The party said it would push for Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s removal from the office of a Chapter nine body.
Mkhwebane said the Western Cape legislature must hold Zille – the premier – to account for her tweet.
The tweet concerned was: “For those claiming the legacy of colonialism was only negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc.”
The Public Protector found Zille’s remarks to be in violation of the constitution and the executive members’ ethics code. She was also guilty of misconduct.
“The tweet has brought back a lot of pain and suffering to victims of apartheid and colonialism in South Africa. She celebrated oppression, exploitation, racism, and poverty, which are the direct results of the legacy of colonialism.”
“She (Zille) failed to act in good faith and in the best interests of good governance by making such statements. And the premier’s action did not comply with what was expected from a person holding the office of the premier of a province. She also failed to act in a manner that is consistent with the integrity of the office,” Mkhwebane added.
Zille had divided society on racial grounds and violated the principles of the constitution. “By undermining South Africans with her personal beliefs on colonialism, she failed to uphold her oath of office, which requires the premier to hold office with honour and dignity.”
DA chief whip in the national assembly John Steenhuisen said the justice and correctional services portfolio committee would finally meet tomorrow, Wednesday, to consider his request – on behalf of the DA – to remove the Public Protector from office. He explained there were numerous grounds on which to do so. “The shockingly poor quality of the work (she) has produced during her tenure… speaks for itself.”
Referring to the matter of the Premier of the Western Cape, he said: “It is on the basis of her fundamental misunderstanding of the basic principles of the Constitution and her own powers that her findings against the Premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille are now part of this growing list of abject findings by her. Her findings have no basis in law and if unchallenged have profoundly negative constitutional implications.”
The content of Premier Zille’s tweets were the subject of a settlement between her and the party, and resulted in a public apology from Ms Zille.
“The Party has made it clear that we did not in any way support the merits of the tweets at the time. This stance remains unchanged. We have never condoned the content of Ms Zille’s tweets. However, this ruling has profound constitutional implications which speak to Adv Mkhwebane’s fundamental misunderstanding of the powers of the Public Protector,” he said.