The DA has sprung to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille’s defence after Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found she must face the music over her controversial tweet regarding the benefits of colonialism.
Cape Town - The DA has sprung to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille’s defence after Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found she must face the music over her controversial tweet regarding the benefits of colonialism.

On Monday, the party slammed Mkhwebane’s report on Zille, saying they would push for her removal from the office of the Chapter 9 body.

Delivering quarterly reports on concluded investigations, Mkhwebane said the Western Cape legislature must hold Zille to account for her tweet, which sparked public outrage last year.

Zille had tweeted: “For those claiming colonialism was only negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc.”

Mkhwebane said she found Zille’s remarks to be in violation of the constitution and the executive members’ ethics code, and that she was guilty of misconduct.

“The tweet has brought back a lot of pain and suffering to victims of apartheid and colonialism in South Africa. She (Zille) celebrated oppression, exploitation, racism and poverty, which are the direct results of the legacy of colonialism.

“She (Zille) failed to act in good faith and in the best interests of good governance by making such statements. And the premier’s action did not comply with what was expected from a person holding the office of the premier of a province. She also failed to act in a manner that is consistent with the integrity of the office,” Mkhwebane added.

She said Zille had violated the principles of the constitution and divided society on racial grounds. “By undermining South Africans with her personal beliefs on colonialism, she failed to uphold her oath of office, which requires the premier to hold office with honour and dignity.”

Mkhwebane has now directed Western Cape speaker Sharna Fernandez to table the report before the legislature within 30 days, and for it to take action against Zille.

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela also found Jacob Zuma guilty of violating his oath of office and the same code of ethics in the Nkandla matter, a decision that intensified calls from opposition parties for him to step down.

Zille said she would take Mkhwebane’s report on judicial review, describing it as illegal and irrational. “The premier has not yet received the actual report outlining the reasons for this finding. However, from what has been announced on TV, the premier is likely to take this report on judicial review," her office said in a statement.

“The premier has already advised the public protector that, in her view, such a finding would be unlawful and irrational."

The DA previously compelled Zille to apologise unconditionally for the tweet, which she eventually did.

DA parliamentary chief whip John Steenhuisen on Monday also blasted Mkhwebane’s report, accusing her of being reliant on irrelevant sections of the constitution when compiling her report. Steenhuisen also said Mkhwebane did not give Zille the copy of the report before presenting it to the public.

“Neither the premier nor the party have been provided with the report, as required in terms of the public protector’s responsibilities. The excerpts that I have seen of it seem to have been once again a complete overreach by the public protector, relying on sections of the constitution which are not relevant,” Steenhuisen said.

Mkhwebane pointed out in her report that by apologising for the tweet, Zille had admitted to her misconduct. “Her apology can be interpreted as recognition of the negative impact the tweet had on the dignity of a section of the population. Although the tweet could have been made in the context of the premier’s right to freedom of expression as provided in section 16 of the constitution and in good faith

“But it was offensive and insensitive to a section of the South African population, which regarded it as reopening a lot of pain and suffering to the victims of apartheid and colonialism, particularly considering the position of influence she holds,” Mkhwebane said.

On Wednesday, the justice portfolio committee will hear the DA’s request for an inquiry into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office.

Said Steenhuisen: “We believe she is completely out of her depth and must vacate the Office of the Public Protector.”

Both the official opposition and the EFF have argued that Mkhwebane was unfit to hold office, due to her alleged proximity to Zuma and his allies. Recent reports by Mkhwebane have been subject to controversy and judicial review, including the Bankorp/Absa case in which she recommended that the Special Investigating Unit recover more than R1billion from Absa for an apartheid-era bailout from the SA Reserve Bank.

The Pretoria High Court set aside Mkhwebane’s remedial action and ordered her to personally pay 10% of the legal costs, following a judicial review application of the report earlier this year by the central bank, Absa and the National Treasury.

The Star