The tweet by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille which caused a stir on social media.
The tweet by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille which caused a stir on social media.

Storm over Zille 'woke bunch' tweet

By Lance Witten And Craig Dodds Time of article published Aug 4, 2016

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The DA has disowned a Helen Zille tweet in which she slammed black students who wrote about their lot at UCT. 

A series of tweets by one of the students, Brian Kamanzi, went viral and trended on Twitter when he called Zille out. 

Cape Town - Western Cape premier, Helen Zille has found herself on the receiving end of a Twitter backlash in response to something she posted a few hours after polling stations closed for the municipal elections.

Zille appeared to take umbrage at a series of articles published in the Cape Argus, one of Independent Media's titles, written by students affiliated to the #FeesMustFall movement.

The group of students wrote about the current democratic climate and questioned whether they should vote or not.

[ View the story "How Helen Zille managed to piss off twitter" on Storify]

The articles were published in the Cape Argus on Wednesday, August 03, the day the country went to the polls ahead of the local government elections on Wednesday.

She tweeted a picture of the Cape Argus article in question, writing: "If this woke bunch hate being UCT students so much, pls help them out of their misery and withdraw their funding.(sic)"

The students, and the rest of Twitter reacted, pointing out the Western Cape premier's privilege and attacking her lack of empathy for the thousands of students who participated in the #FeesMustFall campaign, which called for a stop to fees increases, free tertiary education, an end to the outsourcing of basic services workers and a mindshift in South Africa's tertiary institutions towards inclusivity and an end to institutionalised racism.

The students who were part of the project reacted immediately, and a few hours later "misery" was trending on the social network.

 Some of the responses came from those outside the institution.

They included:

* @helenzille What a completely inappropriate, arrogant and silly remark! - @CharmelleCmvg

* You ignore the black experience while wallowing in your historical & current privilege. if only u took the time to speak to them - @ShuaibManjra (a respected sports scientist and Proteas team doctor)

* You are hypocritical. You challenge ANC power but shun students for challenging power and injustice - @blakterrrorist

* I'm the student in green. Disgusting remark by a public official @TheCapeArgus people like this keep Aprathied alive - @BrianIKamanzi (one of the student contributors)

Very soon, the tweet by Zille was trending, with hundreds of responses to her initial tweet.

Brian Kamanzi, one of the student contributors from UCT and affiliated to the #RhodesMustFall movement, tod the Cape Argus that the tweets formed part of a "coordinated attack" on their movement.

"She has always had an agenda against us.

"Her and her class have been antagonistic towards us from the beginning.

"Her comments are painful.

"She's weaponising fees, when in fact, we have been talking about this for the better part of a year.

"In truth, black students have been fighting for equal rights and opportunities for so long. She's politically immature to be making these comments," Kamanzi said.

In response to queries, Zille said: "You may write whatever you like, I'm sleeping."

Tweets about "Helen Zille"

The DA, of whom Zille was a former leader before handing over the baton to Mmusi Maimane, took a different stance.

National spokeswoman Phumzile van Damme said: "I’ll have to speak to her about what she meant in her tweets, but the insinuation out there is that she’s saying students who complain about universities should have their funding withdrawn. As a basic principle, we do not believe people should be punished for expressing their unhappiness or protesting. It’s a constitutional right – you’re entitled to do that. And we certainly do not support the withdrawal of funding from students. We need as many young people in university, studying, as possible. And those specifically who qualify for university must be in university, we absolutely do not support the withdrawal of funding."

Asked whether the students criticising the university in the article published in the Cape Argus wanted to leave the university or not, Kamanzi said they appreciated being at UCT.

"You'll find it hard to find students who work harder to retain our place. As the Rhodes Must Fall movement, we don't want to leave the university, we just want change.

"She (Zille) is commodifying education.

"She should be opening and welcoming of student commentary and criticism."

Cape Argus

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