Helen Zille. Picture: SOWETAN
Helen Zille. Picture: SOWETAN

Helen Zille says her main error was in not doing more to prevent the DA from entering the ANC and EFF’s “race narrative” arena and her tweets are “geared at exposing the fallacy of racial generalisations”.

But her “black privilege” tweets engage in precisely the racial generalisation she claims they were aimed at: “Well you clearly don’t understand black privilege. It is being able to loot a country and steal hundreds of billions and get re-elected.”

The immunity from consequences of which she complains is not a result of the colour of the looters’ skin (not all of whom are in any event black). It is a result of their being members of a powerful ruling class. If name-calling is what politics has descended to, and if the phenomenon needs a new name, rather call it “ruling party privilege”. 

Zille’s repeated insistence that colonialism should be given credit for the technological advances that arrived with it — and are now enjoyed by those whose ancestors suffered under it — is similarly sloppy thinking.  She points to Singapore as an example of what colonialism can bring with it. But Japan, which was not colonised, also obtained those benefits. It acquired them as a result of exchanges of technology that did not involve the invasion of the country and the wholesale plunder of its land and minerals. It was not necessary for there to have been a process of colonisation for Southern Africa to obtain those advantages. 

Zille’s main error is not what she thinks. It is that she has repeatedly gone astray on the two issues that are of the greatest importance to the country and its electorate: the continuing lived consequences of colonialism (such as the land issue); and the continuing lived consequences (rather than inherent virtues) of the colour of one’s skin.

Adam Brink