A screen grab of Helen Zille's Twitter page.

The ANC has criticised opposition leader Helen Zille’s comment in which she referred to Eastern Cape pupils who flocked to the Western Cape for a better education as refugees.

“The ANC is vindicated by the statement made by Helen Zille,” ANC spokesman, Jackson Mthembu, said on Wednesday.

“This is typical of the erstwhile apartheid government’s mentality that resorted to influx control measures to restrict black people from the so-called white areas.”

Mthembu said the statement was racist and must not be tolerated.

The DA leader sparked a war of words on Twitter on Tuesday, with many users angered by her use of the word “refugee”.

However, Zille remained firm and defended herself.

Her statement was in reference to a protest in Grabouw in relation to overcrowding at a local school.

The DA put the blame on the Department of Public Works’ delays in approving alternative land to build additional schools in the area.

“Zille’s racist statement underpins the DA’s policy of exclusionism of blacks,” said Jackson.

“She will never say the same thing about whites who relocate from one area of the country to the Western Cape or even those who relocate from other countries.

“To reduce South Africans, who have free movement in their own country, as refugees is tantamount to instigating against them by labelling them with a tag associated with foreigners,” Mthembu said.

Asked by a Twitter user to define a refugee, Zille responded: “Refugees are ppl who have to escape because their rights are violated. That describes E Cape pupils exactly.”

Mthembu said the DA viewed black people as useful voters to win elections and nothing else.

“We call on all black DA members to see the DA for what it is, a white racist party,” he said.

“We also call on all those blacks who are in leadership structures of the DA for window-dressing purposes to resign from the DA and not be used unduly.” – Sapa