Zille lashes out against protector's tweet findings

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille. File Photo
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille. File Photo
Image: Trevor Samson / Business Day

Western Cape premier Helen Zille has slammed public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s findings and remedial action on her controversial tweets as irrational and based on legal and factual errors.

“Sanctioning me for the tweets would have the effects of suppressing free speech‚ as well as the Constitutional right to receive information and ideas‚” Zille said in papers filed at the Western Cape High Court.

Zille insists her controversial tweets were never intended to be in praise of colonialism.

She will go to court later this month to take urgent legal action aimed at blocking Mkhwebane’s finding that the Speaker of the Western Cape legislature should “hold the premier accountable” for her colonialism tweets by July 23.

“The interdict is necessary to prevent prejudice to my office by the provincial legislature’s implementation of the remedial action‚ which I contend is unlawful‚” Zille said in her court papers.

“The remedial action directs the provincial legislature to ‘hold the premier accountable’.

“The open-endedness of this remedial action exacerbates the potential prejudice to me.”

Zille is seeking to review and overturn Mkhwebane’s report on her 2017 tweets‚ which she began by stating: “For those claiming that the legacy of colonialism was only negative‚ they should look at various aspects of South Africa’s development‚ such as the judiciary and other infrastructure.”

In court documents‚ Zille says that tweet was part of a series in which she commented on Singapore – which had a history of colonialisation – and was a response to tweets stating that there was nothing positive about colonialism.

“It was explained that the tweets‚ read in context‚ expressed my view that in spite of the overall negativity of colonialism‚ its legacy has nonetheless left us with some benefits‚” she states in court papers.

The public protector was not convinced, saying in her report that “the reaction of the South African public towards the premier’s tweet is indicative of the likelihood [of] such tweets stirring up violence based on race and is therefore a contravention of subsection 16(2)(b) of the Constitution.”

Zille argues that: “Simply put: there is no evidence that my tweets provoked violence or the threat of violence. They provoked emotive debate.”

In an affidavit‚ Zille said she informed Mkhwebane’s office that she intended to challenge the findings‚ and asked that the remedial action be stayed pending that review.

Mkhwebane refused‚ prompting Zille to seek to interdict the Speaker from carrying out this order.Mkhwebane has yet to file a response to Zille’s court action.

– TimesLIVE