DA leader Mmusi Maimane. File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Johannesburg – Western Cape premier and former Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille has responded to her suspension by the DA's federal executive (FedEx) saying the decision does not comply with the party's own federal constitution.

However, the DA has also moved quickly to clarify the issue in a further statement. In a statement posted on her Twitter account on Saturday afternoon, Zille said the DA constitution required that she be given time to make representations on the matter.

There was also a contradiction between the content of a letter sent to her by FedEx chairperson James Selfe and the statement made by DA leader Mmusi Maimane about her suspension, Zille said.

In his letter, Selfe had given her until June 6 to give reasons why she should not be suspended until the outcome of her disciplinary hearing. However, Maimane's statement was "unequivocal that the suspension was already operative".

The DA’s leadership has charged Zille with violating the DA constitution. The party's federal legal commission has found that Zille has a case to answer over her tweets earlier this year in which she said colonialism had had some benefits for the country.

DA suspends Helen Zille over colonialism tweets

In her statement, Zille also said it was not correct that she had refused to apologise.

"I have apologised publicly. What I have not agreed to is plead guilty to charges of misconduct which I have never committed.

"I am obviously prepared to face a full disciplinary hearing. I have not accepted that the DA has a right to find me guilty and penalise me before the hearing even takes place. I cannot be bullied into resigning or incriminating myself," Zille said.

In a further statement issued shortly after Zille's Twitter statement, the DA said it should be noted that the DA FedEx had written to Zille "to signify its intention to temporarily suspend her from party activities until the conclusion of the disciplinary proceedings instituted against her".

"We have given Helen Zille the opportunity to indicate to us why she should not be so suspended. The notice calling for representations on suspension has already been served and requires any representations to be made within 72 hours. The final decision of the DA federal executive regarding whether to suspend Helen Zille will be made once any such representations have been made and considered," the statement said.

Earlier on Saturday, Maimane announced Zille had been suspended from all DA-related activities pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing.

Briefing the media following the DA’s two-day FedEx meeting in Johannesburg, Maimane said he had been working to resolve this matter using all available means.

“It has become quite evident that Helen Zille and I hold fundamentally different attitudes about the mission the Democratic Alliance needs to accomplish in 2019, and the goals and priorities that flow from this.

“Ms Zille’s social media commentary and public utterances in connection with colonialism undermine our reconciliation project. There is no question that Ms Zille’s original tweets and subsequent justifications have damaged our standing in the public mind.

Helen Zille responds to DA suspension

“We live in a fragile democracy which means our public representatives must, at all times, be sensitive to the legitimate anger that people still feel about our past and its legacy,” he said.

As DA leader, it was up to him to rebuild public trust. In this regard, he had asked Zille to tender an unreserved apology to both South Africa and the DA for the damage she had done.

“Unfortunately, she declined. In this period, Ms Zille has continued to damage the party with various pieces of communication that seek to undermine what we are trying to achieve. Accordingly, [the] federal executive has resolved Ms Zille be suspended from all party-related activities until such time as her disciplinary hearing is concluded. A notice of suspension will be served on Ms Zille in this regard. This has not been an easy decision. But, as the leader, I must do what is right for the party and South Africa,” Maimane said.