NEWS

An Incomplete List Of Helen Zille's Social Media Fails

Because let's face it, it's going to keep happening until her party reins her in.

28/12/2016 13:26 SAST | Updated 29/12/2016 07:53 SAST
AFP/Getty Images
Helen Zille during her April 2013 election campaign in Welbedacht informal settlement in Chatsworth, near Durban.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), the country's official opposition, has always been at the forefront of using social media. Accordingly the party has a social media policy. It governs how its members should make use of a potent but dangerous tool that can — and has — brought the party into disrepute.

The Sunday Times has previously posted a 2012 version of the policy and a 2014 update*.

The 2012 version expressly tells DA public representatives to "not create unnecessary risk or embarrassment to the Party by their misuse of social network sites or the internet".

The party held MP Dianne Kohler Barnard to this document in 2015, meting out severe punishments for her infractions. Zille has similarly created major upsets on social media with her posts, which often spills over into other media, but the party has not taken action against her, choosing to defend her latest remarks despite some in the party calling out the inconsistency.

1. Structural racism fail
In December 2016 Zille entirely missed the point about structural racism and false equivalence when she reacted to an article about The Bungalow restaurant following the racial profiling of two patrons as "2 blacks".

Zille tweeted and subsequently removed: "Why is it ok to racially classify people for jobs, but not to identify people at a table by their race?"

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", and in another response said "The ANC institutionalized race classification".

2. Simplistic — and problematic — understanding of HIV/Aids
In July 2016 Zille slammed Hollywood actress Charlize Theron, who said "HIV isn't just transmitted by sex — it's transmitted by sexism and racism, poverty and homophobia" at the International Aids Conference in Durban. The day after her speech Zille tweeted: "Dear Charlize, Answer to your question: we failed to beat Aids because we failed to translate scientific knowledge into behaviour change." Her remarks showed ignorance and a lack of regard for how "inequality limits the agency and choice of certain categories of people", as this article noted.

3. Attack on student activists
Shortly after the August 2016 local government elections Zille tweeted a picture of a Cape Argus article featuring students activists talking about their discomfort being in a middle-class space like the University of Cape Town (UCT) and insisted someone do the student authors a favour and "withdraw their funding".

The DA was quick to distance itself from the sentiment, saying it did not support the withdrawal of funding and that students should feel free to voice their opinions, EWN reported at the time.

But predictably no action was taken against Zille.

3. Attack on atheists
In December 2014, she tweeted: "Atheists commit mass slaughter because they believe they are God, and that their ideology permits them to."

She later apologised for any offence caused, saying she was referring to "atheist fundamentalists", the Sunday Times reported. The tweet has since been deleted.

4. Racial attack on a white journalist
In February 2014, Zille tweeted that journalist Carien du Plessis was "so terrified that she will be damned by her own complexion that she has to bend over to prove her political correctness", and that Du Plessis was trying to "desperately to hide the Missus class from which she comes".

5. Calling black people refugees in their own country
In 2012, she labelled pupils from the Eastern Cape, who move to the Western Cape in search of a better education, as "education refugees".

6. Labelling someone a professional black
In 2011, she landed in trouble when she told popular singer Simphiwe Dana not to be "a professional black" on Twitter in a discussion about whether Cape Town was racist.

*Huffington Post South Africa has asked the party whether these documents are accurate and is awaiting comment.