Defend your legacy Helen Zille
Helen Zille is poised for a fight in the coming weeks, following her now infamous colonialism tweets. A snap debate in the Western Cape legislature, followed by a meeting with the EFF and a meeting of the DA Fedex could decide her ultimate fate. It is likely that she will not go down without a fight, a fight for her political life, a fight to maintain her influence in the DA, a fight for her legacy. This would be a mistake, which could do lasting damage to her legacy and hamper the growth of the DA, which is her crowning achievement. Ultimately the best way for Helen Zille to defend her legacy is to allow the DA, which she nurtured from a sapling to a thriving adult, to continue growing and to become a national force for political competition. Ironically and sad for Helen Zille, the best way to ensure the continued expansion of the DA’s canopy, encompassing a larger and more diverse cross-section of the currently undecided, is for her to step out of the way.
Helen Zille emerged on the SA political scene as a journalist in the 1970s, best known for breaking the story of Steve Biko’s death in custody. In the 1980s, she was involved in the Anti-Apartheid movement through leadership in the Black Sash and other organisations. Her leadership role within the DA started in 1999 when she became a member of the Western Cape Legislature. She became an MP in 2004, Cape Town mayor in 2006 and DA leader in 2007. She remained DA leader until 2015 and is still Premier of the Western Cape (a position she assumed in 2009).
In the last general election (2004) before Zille took over as DA leader, the party received 12% of the national vote. By 2014, before she ended her tenure, this had increased to 22%. Over the same period, DA support in the Western Cape increased from 27% to 59%. During the 2016 municipal election, the DA retained Cape Town (with 66% of the votes) and took control of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay municipalities. The success that the DA achieved under the leadership of Helen Zille is undeniable.
All things being equal and prior to the current ruckus surrounding Helen Zille’s tweets and possible disciplinary hearing, the DA was heading towards further electoral gains in the 2019 general election with control of Gauteng being a distinct possibility. What a wonderful feather in the cap of Helen Zille would it not be for the DA to take control of the richest province in SA and moving even closer to being a serious force at national level? Would this not be a crowning achievement cementing her legacy in post-Apartheid SA politics? Should Helen Zille not do everything in her power to make sure that this outcome comes to pass?
A fight within the DA over the future of Helen Zille could very well distract it from achieving its and her goals, whether she wins the battle or not. If she does win the battle, this will become the main talking point of those who want to paint the DA as a racist party and this would inevitably slow the party’s growth in non-traditional constituencies. The DA therefore faces the risk, like the ANC, that disagreement over leadership and the unwillingness of a divisive leader to step down, causes factionalism, distraction and electoral disappointment.
Helen Zille is faced with a difficult decision. Does she fight to maintain her position in the party or does she do what’s best for the party and her legacy? Does she take a page out of the book of Nelson Mandela or out of the book of Jacob Zuma and Margaret Thatcher? Time will tell.
Do you believe that Helen Zille will face a disciplinary hearing? Do you believe she will win? Do you think she should step down? I would love to hear your feedback.
In the mean time, keep your talking straight!
#HelenZille #DA #Colonialism