Helen Zille inherited the spirit of Helen Suzman in the sense that the driving force of both was for a free-from-repression and prosperous SA. Both ladies epitomise the will of an invincible people and a land with a destiny, and made enormous sacrifices to help achieve the new dispensation. Zille, at great risk to herself, exposed the police brutality behind Steve Biko’s death and was also a member of the Black Sash. For both activities she was intimidated and persecuted for many years.
In the hearts of many South Africans Zille was (and still is) motivated by her love for our country and its people. Her ongoing commitment to providing an alternative to the apartheid government (then) and to the corrupt, dysfunctional ANC (now) is a well-written page. Unlike the vast majority, Zille stood very much alone (as did other notable struggle icons).
In the current, self-serving scramble for power there are many, on all sides of the spectrum, who depict Zille as power-hungry, interfering and racist. The ANC depicts her as DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s "madam", and Maimane sadly lacks the gravitas to expose their political chicanery. Lacking heart, the DA is edging Zille out.
But the reason Zille remains relevant is that patriotic South Africans (and there are many) know her for her track record of defeating self-serving politicians — her driving spirit made possible the "politics of coalition", partially unseating the ANC. Had it succeeded entirely, Zille would have retired gracefully (and thankfully, I suspect), to enjoy peace of mind in what is left of her life. In our current political mess we need her, and others like her, more than ever.
As things stand, I believe if Zille were to step sideways, at least 80% of the DA’s thoroughly disillusioned support base would follow her unhesitatingly.