Johannesburg – Western Cape Premier Helen Zille says she apologises unreservedly to South Africans who were offended by her colonialism tweets.

She also apologised for her remarks made trying to justify the tweets.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane, who was briefing the media on Tuesday, said Zille will step down from all her roles in the party which include; Federal Executive, Federal Council and Provincial Council.

Maimane said the decision was not easy.

Zille's political communication will now be restricted to only the Western Cape provincial government.

"I realise the wounds of history that my tweet and subsequent defense of it has opened. I recognise that my actions were insensitive to South Africans who suffered under colonial opperession," said Zille.

When asked on Tuesday why the party did not decide to remove her as Western Cape Premier, Maimane said Zille runs good government in the province.

Maimane said: "It was important to me that Helen offered the South African public a fulsome and unqualified apology, and I am glad to say that she is now prepared to do that. Her willingness to admit wrongdoing and apologise is a quality that I believe sets her apart from many other political leaders in our country.

Video: Zintle Mahlati

Video: Zintle Mahlati

"Helen has agreed that it is in the best interests of the party for her to vacate her position on all decision-making structures of the party, including the Federal Executive, Federal Council and Provincial Council.

"In addition, her political communication from this point onward will focus on matters relating to the Western Cape provincial government where she will remain premier. If she wishes to communicate on any other political issues, she will abide by the sign-off protocols of the Democratic Alliance."

After the tweets in March, Maimane laid a formal complaint, charging that Zille's remarks had brought the party into disrepute.

Last week he announced that she would be suspended as she rejected his call for her to issue an unreserved apology.

Zille then hit back saying that Maimane had in doing so, flouted the party rules as he made the announcement without first allowing her to submit reasons why she should not be suspended. She said it also meant that her suspension – which was eventually confirmed on Thursday – was a foregone conclusion, regardless of how strong her defence might be.

“The failure to observe due constitutional process in terms of section 3.6.3 of the DA constitution, has rendered the exercise of my right to representation hollow, as there is little chance of the DA Fedex publicly embarrassing the leader through being influenced by the legality of my submission, no matter how cogent it is,” Zille said in her submission to the party, which she also made public.

She added that she had consulted lawyers and might take legal action against the DA's federal executive for the manner in which she was suspended.

The battle between Zille and her successor and former protege escalated shortly after Maimane's initial complaint when Zille sought to defend her remarks instead of retracting them.

This included an article she wrote for the Daily Maverick that appeared to repeat the initial, problematic view.

In the article, Zille explained that she had returned from a visit to Singapore, where she was struck by the efficiency, to struggle to find milk or newspapers in the VIP lounge of OR Tambo Airport.

She added that she had not defended colonialism but said its entire legacy was not negative. Maimane told the media this had exacerbated the damage and had therefore been added to his initial referral to disciplinary authorities in the party.