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Mkhwebane: Zille’s colonialism tweet violated ethics code, Constitution

Busisiwe Mkhwebane says Helen Zille’s colonialism tweet was offensive and insensitive to a section of South Africa’s population.

Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane is providing a quarterly update on the performance of her office and is releasing several reports at a briefing in Pretoria. @PublicProtector/Twitter.

PRETORIA - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has found that Western Cape Premier Helen Zille’s tweet about colonialism violated both the Executive Members Ethics Code and provisions of the Constitution.

The advocate is providing a quarterly update on the performance of her office and is releasing several reports at a briefing in Pretoria.

Last year, Zille tweeted: “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.”

Zille has already indicated to Mkhwebane that she will take this finding on judicial review.

The advocate says Zille’s colonialism tweet was offensive and insensitive to a section of South Africa’s population.

She found that the comment was interpreted as re-opening pain and suffering for the victims of apartheid and colonialism.

Mkhwebane says Zille has responded to her findings.

“The premier felt it was within her rights to tweet like that because, in terms of the Constitution, she has freedom of expression.”

The public protector has referred the matter to the Speaker of the Western Cape Legislature to take appropriate action against the premier.

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Mkhwebane says the freedom of expression provisions in the Constitution were not created to allow people to make insensitive and offensive comments.

Advocate Mkhwebane says the complaint against Zille referred to the offence people had taken.

“The tweet has brought back a lot of pain and suffering to the victims of apartheid and colonialism in South Africa.”

In the report’s executive summary, Mkhwebane says Section 16 of the Constitution was not created to allow anyone, particularly those in positions of influence, to make offensive or insensitive comments.

She says Zille’s apology for the tweet was recognition of the negative impact it had on the dignity of sections of the population.

COMPLAINTS

Mkhwebane says her office has completed almost all of the complaints received over the last two years.

She says the end of this week will mark 20 months since she was appointed.

“In the year 2016/17 and 2017/18, we’ve had a total workload of over 25,288 complaints. Out of these, we finalised 21,176 complaints.”

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)

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