South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), on Saturday suspended its former leader Helen Zille over a tweet in which she said colonialism was not all bad.
Ms. Zille’s tweets led to a storm of criticism in March. It is feared they have affected the party’s electoral chances.
She apologized after criticism.
“I apologise unreservedly for a tweet that may have come across as a defence of colonialism. It was not,” Zille tweeted.
Maimane announced Zille’s suspension at a media conference in Kempton Park.
“We have suspended Helen Zille pending the outcome of her disciplinary hearing,” Maimane said in a series of tweets.
“It has become evident that Helen Zille and I hold fundamentally different attitudes about the mission DA must accomplish in 2019
“Social media commentary and public utterances in connection with colonialism undermine our reconciliation project
“We live in a fragile democracy. Our public reps must be sensitive to the legitimate anger that people still feel about our past and its legacy
“I asked Helen Zille to tender an unreserved apology to both SA and the DA for damage she has done. Unfortunately, she declined
“She has continued to damage the party with communication that seeks to undermine what we are trying to achieve
“DA has resolved Helen 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 her 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
The DA, which promotes a liberal, equal-opportunity message, is pushing hard to broaden its appeal among black voters.
But it has been bruised by social media scandals as the party tries to take advantage of the declining popularity of President Jacob Zuma and the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
The DA, which won 22 percent of the vote in the last general election, hopes to make major gains in the 2019 vote, but it has struggled to shed its image as a “white” party.
South Africa remains deeply divided more than 20 years after the end of white-minority apartheid rule, as stark racial inequality leaves millions of black people with poor housing, education and job opportunities.
South Africa was colonised by both the Dutch and British. The Dutch East India Company established the first colony in 1652.