Former DA leader DA Helen Zille. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA) Archives
Former DA leader DA Helen Zille. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA) Archives

Zille responds to Twitter spat with Van Damme: 'You have to hear both sides'

By SIHLE MAVUSO Time of article published Jun 24, 2019

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Johannesburg - Former Western Cape premier Helen Zille is once again in the middle of a storm over her comments on racism, and is now embroiled in a public spat with senior DA MP Phumzile van Damme.

This was after Zille called on the family that was involved in a clash with Van Damme to come out and give their side of the story.

The incident last Tuesday at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront resulted in Van Damme punching the perpetrator.

Zille wrote on Twitter: “I wish the family would come forward and give us their perspective. But I suppose they are scared of potential consequences. It is hard, in these circumstances, to work out where the truth lies.”

The comment sparked a heated response from Van Damme.

“Anyone with an iota of intelligence would watch Pettzer’s video & laugh. You invalidate MY experience. I was made to feel subhuman. I was threatened. In addition to that I must be dragged through the mud & you gladly join the mob with your 1m followers? I don’t kowtow to bullies,” Van Damme angrily responded to Zille.

Later Van Damme said that while she could tolerate attacks from “fools” who had been attacking her all week, she was not willing to let Zille get away scot-free.

“I was severely traumatised. Other fools have been attacking me all week. But I won’t take it from Helen, who gets away with a lot without consequences. What is good for the goose is good for the gander,” she tweeted.

Although some interpreted Zille’s response as an attempt to whitewash racism and racism allegations against some white residents of Cape Town, she told Independent Media that was not the case.

She also clarified that the response was not directed to Van Damme as previously thought, but she was responding to someone else who had tweeted about the claims by the DA MP, and was seemingly believing the claim without hearing the other side.

“I wasn’t defending anyone’s perspective, I was saying where people differ you have to hear both sides. I have never said there is no racism in Cape Town, no, there is racism everywhere,” Zille defended herself.

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said DA leader Mmusi Maimane had no choice but to intervene in this matter, as it was a spat between two senior members of his party.

Mathekga described Zille as a great leader whose political background and fighting against apartheid during her time as a journalist was great.

“But because of lack of maturity and attention-seeking behaviour, she has undertaken this path, which is embarrassing even to people she mentored There is nothing her tweet or her stubbornness will achieve, nothing, it is not even a scholarly debate, it does not enrich anyone, it is just sucking her own ego and it ruins a lot of relationships where people are now asking whether she is racist or not.”

He said he did not think Zille was racist or that Zille’s tweets and responses to racial matters were meant to drive the DA back to its former white-only constituency.

“If that is the plan, I don’t think this is going to work, I think this is just unplanned stupidity.”

Maimane’s spokesperson, Azola Mboniswa, said: “It would be premature to give a public comment at this stage.

“I cannot confirm whether the leader has seen the tweets or not, hence I am saying to you it would be jumping the gun at this point.”

Zille is not new to controversy sparked by her comments on racism.

Last year, she praised colonialism by saying it was not all bad, as it brought some benefits, such as formal education and the constitution.

Prior to that, she was slammed for calling people from the Eastern Cape who had settled in the Western Cape “refugees”.

Political Bureau

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