Major milestones in Helen Zille’s career

The DA leader will remain in her position as Premier but is making room for new leadership in the DA.

FILE: Leader of South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance political party, Helen Zille. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - After Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille announced she is stepping down, the country has taken time to reflect on major milestones in her rise to power.

The Western Cape Premier made the announcement at a media briefing at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.


Zille's entrance into politics began in the 1970s while working as a journalist for the Rand Daily Mail. Otta Helene "Helen" Zille was part of a team who exposed the truth behind the death of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko.

The anti-apartheid activist also worked with the Black Sash and other pro-democracy groups during the 1980s.


In 1993 she was offered the position of Director of Development and Public Affairs at the University of Cape Town. Zille at the time had her own public policy consultancy.

In 1996 Zille led a successful challenge against government policy limiting governing bodies' powers to appoint staff.

Zille was then invited by the then Democratic Party to write a draft policy for Education in the Western Cape. In 1999 she became a Member of the Western Cape Provincial Legislature, and was appointed MEC for Education.


In 2004 Zille became a Member of Parliament with the Democratic Alliance (DA). Within the DA she rose to the level of deputy federal chairperson and served as national party spokesperson and spokesperson for education.

In the 2006 municipal elections, the DA became the single largest party in Cape Town with 42 percent of the vote, ahead of the African National Congress (ANC).


Zille was elected mayor by 106 votes to 103 on 15 March 2006, after the DA obtained the support of several smaller parties.

She was elected as the new party leader by a large majority on 6 May 2007. She indicated that she would lead the party from outside Parliament, while continuing in her position as executive mayor of Cape Town.


Zille was nominated as one of 820 world mayors and was winner of the 2008 World Mayor award in October 2008.


Following the 2014 general elections, the Democratic Alliance won 59,38 percent of the vote in the Western Cape and 26 seats in the provincial legislature, an increase of 3,25 percent. Under her leadership, the party also won 89 seats in the National Assembly and 22,23 percent of the National vote.