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After The Firestorm, Helen Zille Defends Her Colonialism Tweets In The Cape Legislature

"If there was anyone who genuinely thought I was praising, defending, or justifying colonialism, I apologised unreservedly... and do so now."

28/03/2017 17:36 SAST | Updated 28/03/2017 18:00 SAST
Rodger Bosch / AFP / Getty Images
Helen Zille in 2014.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille defended the colonialism tweets in the Western Cape Legislature on Tuesday that caused a firestorm last week. She offered an apology, and said that her travels had opened her eyes to the fact that in some countries the colonised were overtaking the colonisers, and it was worth asking why.

"Of course colonialism had a diabolical impact worldwide, including South Africa. That was the very premise of my tweets. Anyone who read them without a personal or political agenda would have understood that. If you say the consequences of something were not only negative, you are saying most were negative," she said.

"But if there was anyone who genuinely thought I was praising, defending, or justifying colonialism, I apologised unreservedly and stressed that this was not so. I do so again now."

Zille also made the point that what she tweeted was no different to what others had said, and that there were other the reasons why her comments had drawn so much ire.

Zille quoted a speech that former president Nelson Mandela gave at Cambridge in 2001, where he said, "Britain was the main colonial power in our history, with all of the attendant problems and consequences of such a relationship. Much of our traditional systems and institutions still carry the scars of the distortions inflicted by colonial rule. At the same time, so much of what we have to build on in the competitive modern world is also the result of what we could gain from that interaction and engagement with Britain."

She also quoted Dr Maanda Mulaudzi, who wrote that colonisation brought about the end of the slave trade in Eastern Africa.

"If people believe that some South Africans may say things that others may not, the thought police must draw up schedules of exactly what can be said by whom, and make sure this is consistent with the Constitution. Of course we know that this is both impossible and undesirable," Zille said.

Zille concluded by warning that the African National Congress was making scapegoats of minority groups to hide its failures, beginning with the "mythical white monopoly capital" and farmers, and would soon turn on other minorities.

Proceedings in the house were disrupted for close to an hour by hecklers in the gallery, and ANC Member of Parliament Khaya Magaxa was asked to leave after he repeatedly interrupted Zille's speech.