Helen Zille, the white Premier of the Western Cape in South Africa and a leading member of the country’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), is in hot water for defending the legacy of colonialism on Twitter.
This is what Ms Zille wrote: “For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc…”
Later she wrote: “Would we have had a transition into specialised health care and medication without colonial influences? Just be honest please…”
The comments by Zille (66), a former journalist and anti-apartheid campaigner, have led to calls for her suspension from the DA and removal as the Western Cape’s Premier.
Zille then Tweeted: “I apologise unreservedly for a Tweet that may have come across as a defence of colonialism. It was not.”
Her public apology however, did not take the heat off and the DA’s leader Mmusi Maimane has given Zille untill Tuesday to explain why she should not be suspended from the party.
WAS ZILLE WRONG?
One can disagree vehemently with Helen Zille’s views and at the very least criticise her for being so politically insensitive (and foolish) but “just to be honest” is it really possible to fully dismiss what she said? And what about free speech?
KENYA AND THE “COLONIAL LEGACY”
In Kenya we have a legislative democracy based on the British system and a legal system based on the English legal system and Common Law’.
We have also just celebrated the building of a new railway line from Mombasa to Nairobi, built by the Chinese with Kenyan labour, but it could be argued that the “Lunatic Line” built by the British (with labour from the Indian sub-continent) over 100 years ago was a key building block of what became Kenya.
No one can rationally argue that colonialism wasn’t often brutal, racist and many other bad things besides but surely the statement that its legacy wasn’t “ONLY negative” is a statement of fact evidenced, for example, by Kenya’s retention of some of the British/English system of government and law.