home Featured, Politics Can Helen Zille be removed as WC Premier for her colonialism tweets?: A look at the law

Can Helen Zille be removed as WC Premier for her colonialism tweets?: A look at the law

By BO Staff Writer

On 2 April 2017, the federal executive of the Democratic Alliance (DA) decided to charge Helen Zille via the process of a disciplinary hearing following a report it received on an investigation regarding her pro-colonialism tweets via her personal Twitter account on 16 May 2017 which suggested inter alia that colonialism was not entirely bad.

Following her initial comments Zille publicly made a series of further comments including on social media that have supported her pro colonialism stance and to this end further strengthens the charges, including that laid against her of crimen injuria involving racism that was instituted by Black First Land First (BLF) against her at the South African Police Services (SAPS), South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), and the Equality Court of South Africa. It must be noted that Zille has since served a notice of intention to oppose the BLF application in the Equality Court indicating her use of the State Attorney (being a state resource) to defend her conduct involving individual act(s) of racism.

On 28 March 2017 when Zille’s tweets were debated in the Western Cape Legislature her contentions in summation was that her comments was a statement of fact. Furthermore her DA colleagues who strongly defended her indicated a thumbs up by giving her a standing ovation.

Zille continues to impair the dignity and dismiss the collective pain of blacks resulting from colonialism. In defence of her prior racist comments she has indicated, amongst others, that those who have the belief that the cost of colonialism was too high shouldn’t drive cars‚ which in turn were left-overs from colonialism that were used “not only as a means of transport but the ultimate status symbol”.

Moreover, “[t]o be consistent on the principle” she said “if people believe the price was too high to acknowledge any advantage‚ then they mustn’t … visit most houses of religious worship.”

Furthermore, (as reported)  “[p]eople would be appalled … if anyone suggested there was anything positive about zealots who killed millions of people to impose their ideas — yet this was the case with religions introduced by colonialists”. The debate was subsequently postponed.

It is reported that Zille would not be suspended as Premier of Western Cape pending the outcome of the charge against her because “…the DA suspended its members only if it believed they might interfere with an investigation. … the DA believed she would not”.

On the power to remove a premier from Office

Zuma, as President of the country, does not have the power to directly fire a Provincial Premier. However, his actual influence regarding the election and dismissal of premiers is located, as indicated in the functions of premiers, more in his position as President of the African National Congress (ANC), than in his position as President of the country. However such influence by the President is only possible if the ANC is the ruling party of the Province where the Premier is sought to be removed.

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996 (the Constitution)  does not permit the President to directly fire a premier. To this end the following provisions of the Constitution are instructive:

“Election of Premiers


At its first sitting after its election, and whenever necessary to fill a vacancy, a provincial legislature must elect a woman or a man from among its members to be the Premier of the province.

A judge designated by the President of the Constitutional Court must preside over the election of the Premier. …

Term of office and removal of Premiers


3. The legislature of a province, by a resolution adopted with a supporting vote of at least two thirds of its members, may remove the Premier from office only on the grounds of –  a serious violation of the Constitution or the law; serious misconduct; or inability to perform the functions of office”.

In this context, since a Premier is not appointed by the President (each provincial legislature elects its respective premier) and a judge who is duly assigned by the Chief Justice presides over the relevant election – a premier can accordingly only be removed by the provincial legislature. Moreover, to remove a Premier a resolution, on certain grounds as indicated above, of at least two thirds of its members must be adopted by the provincial legislature.

It also follows that with regard to the suspension of a Provincial Premier, such action can only be effected by the Provincial Legislature. However, in practice such power to remove or appoint Premiers or by extension to suspend them, is located in the  ruling party of that province.

To this end the ruling party mobilizes for such an action by directing its members of the Provincial Legislature to remove the relevant Premier by so voting. A Premier can also be ordered by the ruling party of the province to resign from the Provincial Legislature as a member and thus effectively facilitate their removal as Premier.

However whatever the reasons of the ruling party of a province may be for removing a Premier of the Provincial Legislature, the Constitution cites only the above three instances of misconduct that will justify the said removal.

In this context it seems that the removal or even suspension of Zille as Premier of the Western Cape via the Provincial Legislature will prove to be extremely challenging given the main fact that the ruling party is the DA in the Western Cape. Moreover, and in the absence of a change in the relevant legislation, the removal or suspension of the Premier via the President is even more difficult if not impossible. This situation, especially in the DA led metropolitan areas, further promotes the apartheid era type white corruption to continue with impunity.

The fact that the DA has not suspended Zille as Premier of the Western Cape, pending the outcome of her disciplinary case (assuming it will go against her), is indicative of its support of her anti black conduct and to this end, its own racist agenda to maintain and perpetuate colonialism which is a function of white supremacy. It also shows that the DA will never bring Zille to book for her racism.

The call to revolutionary action should accordingly be to the blacks who have been rendered landless and without an Afrikan sense of being by colonialism. The power of the people on the streets of the DA led municipalities must be organised and mobilized towards elaborating a government that will correct the historical injustices of colonialism, apartheid and neo colonialism and thereby end racism. It is only through ending racism structurally that the power to inflict individual acts of racism by the likes of Zille will come to an end.

BLF Anti Racism Bill of 2017

On 24 October 2016 BLF responded to the government’s “Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill” (Hate Crimes Bill) with its “Anti-Racism Bill of 2017”. BLF has since the introduction of the government’s Hate Crimes Bill consistently pointed out that it is incapable, due to its framework and linked remedial  deficiencies, of responding to “the scourge of racism”.

The offence relating racism that Zille faces would, in terms of the BLF Anti Racism Bill of 2017, upon her conviction make her liable to be sentenced to a minimum of 10 years imprisonment (as a first time offender) and a minimum of twenty years imprisonment (as a repeat offender). Furthermore, since in this case the crime is committed by a public servant, this fact would be regarded as an aggravating factor in respect of sentence.

Organisations and other entities “that justify and/or promote discrimination or racism” –  as is suggestive of the DA’s conduct in relation to Zille’s act of racism, and its continued lack of service delivery to blacks in the provinces it governs – is prohibited. To this end the BLF Anti Racism Bill says that “[t]hese are racist or discriminatory entities” in which membership is decreed illegal. In this regard, the DA is  accordingly a “white supremacist anti black” entity that must be banned.

The BLF Anti Racism Bill further provides for the establishment of “a reparations process (to) be undertaken to address the historical and contemporary injustices suffered by black people”.  Zille, who has benefited and continues to benefit from racism and in fact promotes it, must be made to pay reparations. To this end provision is made for the establishment of an Anti Racism Council to lead such a process and to quantify “black loss” resulting from “colonialism”. In this regard the said Council would focus “on land, labour and the destruction of the African way of life”. It must be noted that to realize the payment of reparations, this process makes significant provision to gauge and compute those benefits that have accrued to the white settler minority arising from colonialism and apartheid.

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