When Helen Zille stepped down as the leader of the Democratic Alliance in 2015, she had taken the party from 16.2 percent to 27.1 percent share of the electoral votes. What we don't talk about enough is how she dedicated her tenure to ensuring that she became a political institution that would outlive her departure. Over the years, the party has refined their coalition negotiation skills as it gained small but consistent growth at the local government and national elections.
Managing a balancing act between appeasing its traditional constituencies and attracting the black vote under a liberal ideological stance seemed an impossible objective. But one of the most valuable political calculations Zille set her sights on was creating opportunities for black faces who would represent the party and change perceptions on the party pandering to white interests.
In sharp contrast to the Tony Leon era, names such as Lindiwe Mazibuko and Mmusi Maimane became synonymous with the new opposition party. The idea of a post-apartheid, multi-racial and equal opportunity for all South Africa was pivotal to the liberal ideology embedded in its political messaging. It is these key milestones that have characterised the DA's place in the country, that Maimane will have to consider in his attempt to bring Zille to account on her colonialism tweets.
"For those claiming legacy of colonialism was only negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water,etc." said Zille, setting off an eruption among black South Africans who knew that her depiction of history was from a white colonial perspective. Understanding that Zille is a knowledgeable politician, it exposed how distant she is from the country's current state of race relations in diminishing black suffering and an important lesson be taught on the manifestations of critical race theory in post-colonial societies.
But of course, part of her success as a political leader is her identity as a white woman who has built her career on being a liberal who sidelined those who looked like her because she knew that the politics of perception would entice black votes. It is Zille's ambition to leave her mark that has backed current leader, Maimane, in an uncomfortable corner.
Of course Maimane should expel her from the party once she appears before the federal legal commission. In aggressive responses, the party has highlighted deficiencies in leadership, integrity and accountability as synonymous with Jacob Zuma's administration that we all need to reject. Many South Africans agree with this sentiment. It is in this likeness of mind that a repeat offender who spews micro-aggressions against black people and continues to bring a political party into disrepute should be held to account.
The public perception of Zille's influence and close proximity to Mmusi will compromise his future as a credible and independent politician, particularly due to his quick rise through DA leadership ranks often inviting doubts regarding his capacity to lead. There's a future that lies ahead for the DA under Mmusi Maimane's leadership alongside middle class and young black voters.
Today, the party is the country's official opposition party that has already set its sights on the 2019 national elections with good innings in local government in the Western Cape, Nelson Mandela Bay, City of Johannesburg and the City of Tshwane. Black DA voters are currently more than the Inkatha Freedom Party, National Freedom Party, Pan Africanist Congress, and United Christian Democratic Party combined. What South Africans need to remember going forward is that like the Penny Sparrow and Vicki Mombergs of this world, Helen Zille represents an ugly part of our society. And while Zille can attribute her hard work to the evolution of the DA, the time has come for Maimane to show up with another evolution.