Cape Town - Premier Helen Zille is likely to take Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to court after she found that Zille’s controversial tweet about “colonialism not being only negative” violated her ethics code and was inconsistent with the high office she holds.
Mkhwebane has directed the Speaker of the Western Cape Legislature, Sharna Fernandez, to take action against Zille within 30 days.
“Taking into account the negative responses to the premier’s tweet, the statements were not consistent with the integrity of her office and position,” Mkhwebane said in Pretoria.
Zille’s spokesperson, Michael Mpofu, said: “The premier has not received the actual report, outlining the reasons for this finding. However, from what has been announced on television, the premier is likely to take this report on judicial review. The premier has already advised the public protector that, in her view, such a finding would be unlawful and irrational.”
Mkhwebane said the freedom of expression guaranteed in Section 16 of the constitution was not created to allow anyone, particularly people of high positions, to make such statements.
She also pointed out that certain sections of the constitution were enacted to curb such statements.
“Taking into account the negative responses to the premier’s tweet, the statements were not consistent with the integrity of her office and position. The negative responses to the tweet imply that divisions of the past are still not healed,” she said.
She also said a response by Premier Zille was received on March 15.
“She indicated that my conclusion that her tweets gave rise to the constitutional and statutory infringements will amount to and represent an ‘arbitrary and irrational decision’ which will not withstand judicial review (and) scrutiny.”
In her report, Mkhwebane said the allegation that Zille’s tweets violated the provisions of the code were substantiated.
“It cannot be said that the premier’s tweet sought to show concern and respect for those who were victims of apartheid and colonialism. The premier subsequently apologised for any harm perceived by any alternative interpretation of the tweet. Her apology can be interpreted as recognition of the negative impact the tweet had on the dignity of a section of the South African population,” she said.
“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, it was however, 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,” Mkhwebane said.