Former Democratic Alliance (DA) youth leader Mbali Ntuli has spoken out against double standards in the party after former party leader Helen Zille once again caused up uproar with a series of controversial tweets, but was not held to account by her party.
"The problem as far as I'm concerned is when some councillor or public rep tweets the same sort of thing and faces the full wrath of the public and suddenly the party," Ntuli posted on Facebook on Friday morning. "I'm not saying they don't deserve the condemnation and whatever else happens as a consequence of their actions but a little consistency would be nice."
Why is it OK to racially classify ppl for jobs but not to identify ppl at a table by their race?Helen Zille
DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard, for instance, faced major sanctions in the party after she shared a Facebook post written by someone else that called for PW Botha to come back. "You were far more honest than any of these [ANC] rogues, and you provided a far better service to the public," it read.
Kohler Barnard had to attend a presentation on the safe use of social media, pay a R20,000 fine and resign from all elected positions in the party, except that of MP. She was demoted from shadow police minister to deputy shadow minister of public works.
The party's former national spokesperson, MP Marius Redelinghuys, was also called in over an argument over gay rights with UCT student Zizipho Pae on Facebook.
Zille's now deleted tweet read: "Why is it OK to racially classify ppl for jobs but not to identify ppl at a table by their race?" Zille was initially responding to an article shared by Huffington Post SA editor-at-large Ferial Haffajee on Twitter.
History tells us that Africans were the first colonialists. They went to Europe and wiped out the Neanderthals.Helen Zille
Zille was reacting to the article about The Bungalow restaurant following the racial profiling of two patrons as "two blacks". The restaurant faced a backlash when patron Scott Maqetuka tweeted an image of the slip.
The Zimbabwean waiter who served Maqetuka was suspended pending an inquiry. He later apologised‚ saying he regretted the incident.
"What if the waiter who wrote that was black?" Zille asked Haffajee.
She later replied to a tweet with "History tells us that Africans were the first colonialists. They went to Europe and wiped out the Neanderthals."
We certainly have no intentions of taking any actions against her whatsoever.James Selfe
Zille took aim at the ANC too, likening the ruling party to the apartheid government, saying it institutionalised racial classification, adding race "should not matter" but the government has "reintroduced race classification for everything".
Her comments go against the party's line on black economic empowerment, which recognises historical injustice based on race and the need for race-based BEE policies to rectify it.
Ntuli is the newly-appointed DA KwaZulu-Natal legislature caucus spokesperson. She fell out with Zille about two years ago after she criticised the DA's plan to march on ANC head offices. Ntuli is an outspoken critic of double standards in the party and the lack of accountability around its former leader.
Zille has a long history of putting out incredibly problematic tweets, with often racist overtones, but is never called to account. When HuffPost SA asked if the DA would take action over Zille's latests tweets, the answer was a resounding no.
When is it disrepute and when is it just starting a conversation?Mbali Ntuli
"Most certainly not," said the DA's federal chairperson James Selfe. "Mrs. Zille is involved in a serious conversation about race and if you have a racial classification in one part of our society it makes no sense not to have it in another. I think this does not infringe our code in any way and we certainly have no intentions of taking any actions against her whatsoever," he said.
Selfe said members were encouraged to participate in debates on various topics. He added that it was time for the country to have a deep conversation on the issue of race.
In her Facebook post Ntuli said: "I think people should say whatever they want on social media and we should engage them robustly."
She went on to reference a HuffPost SA article rounding up a list of Zille's problematic tweets. "I think Helen has tweeted some outrageous things (some not in this article) but she must defend them and face the counter arguments. These must include those that come from within the party too but such is the nature of politics that few who disagree would say so publicly."
I can imagine nothing worse than a political party with members that are afraid to say anything even when it really matters.Mbali Ntuli
Ntuli referenced a culture within the opposition party of other people being watched like hawks, while people like Zille went untouched.
"As a party we should be clear about why some leaders can say whatever they want with impunity and others cannot. When is it disrepute and when is it just starting a conversation?
"Instead increasingly it seems we have our own social media gestapo that lives to find gotcha moments from other colleagues' accounts. All this creates is an environment of stifling censorship. I can imagine nothing worse than a political party with members that are afraid to say anything even when it really matters.
"Let people write what they like because the lovely thing about social media is that it's a market place of ideas and there will be no shortage of people to point out any nonsense one may have written."
A DA insider has previously said Zille's tweeting problem has never been addressed because there is no one left to hold her to account.
"Helen has outlived everyone else senior in the organisation. Neither are there any independent voices willing to take her on after [former party strategist] Ryan Coetzee left."