South Africa’s Western Cape Premier Helen Zille insists her latest apology over her colonialism tweets is genuine – and admits she shouldn’t have continued to defend her comments.

Last week, the Democratic Alliance (DA) party announced that Zille had been suspended pending disciplinary proceedings, which started on Friday, June 9 after a series of tweets she wrote in which she defended colonialism.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane announced that Zille would step down from all the party’s decision-making structures. “Helen has agreed that it is in the best interests of the party for her to vacate her position on all decision-making structures of the party, including the Federal Executive, Federal Council and Provincial Council.” Zille’s political communication will now be restricted exclusively to the Western Cape provincial government, said Maimane.

Zille’s decision comes one week after she claimed she was seeking legal advice on how to appeal her suspension from the party. The risk of a legal battle was a key factor Maimane considered.

Read: Sincere apology or expediency? South Africa’s Helen Zille unreserved apologises for colonialism tweets

“This has not been an easy decision. The alternative was to become embroiled in a protracted legal battle in the lead up to the 2019 election; I have no doubt that this, in fact, would have caused further damage into the organization,”said Maimane.

The party leader, who said he was personally angered by Zille’s tweets, said it was important for society to be mindful of the fact that colonialism was not a victimless crime.

File picture: New mayor of Tshwani, Solly Msimanga (C) of the DA (Democratic Alliance) together with national leader, Mmusi Maimane (R) arrive at a victory rally held at Freedom Park, Pretoria, South Africa, 09 August 2016 Photo: ANP,EPA/Kim Ludbrook

“Many South Africans suffered directly under colonialism and apartheid, and continue to be disadvantaged by the legacy of colonialism and apartheid,” said Maimane.

Zille will retain her position as Western Cape Premier despite her removal from the key bodies within the party. This comes once she apologized unreservedly to the public for a series of tweets she wrote in which she defended colonialism after previously apologizing for her tweets but continuing to defend them. She says this time it’s genuine.

South Africa’s Helen Zille unreserved apologises for colonial tweets. Cartoon: Dante Besong

“I realize the wounds of history that my tweet and subsequent defence of it has opened. I recognize that my actions were insensitive to South Africans who suffered under colonial oppression,” said Zille. She was speaking at a joint media briefing with party leader Maimane in Rosebank on Tuesday.

The reactions

South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF); second-largest opposition; group have accepted the apology by Zille. However, party spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said it isn’t enough on Johannesburg-based state broadcaster SAFM Wednesday.

“We are at the eve of losing any form of cooperation with them because of the manner with which they continue to defend colonization,” he said. “They remain warned.”

Read: Response to Helen Zille’s, “there is a big difference between genocide and colonialism” remarks

EFF leader Julius Malema last week warned it will stop voting with the DA in city councils because of Zille’s comments. That would leave the DA without enough support to hold onto mayoral positions in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

File picture. Julius Malema, leader of the opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), addresses supporters at the launch of the party’s local election manifesto in Soweto, near Johannesburg, South Africa, 30 April 2016 Photo: ANP/EPA Cornell Tukiri

The African National Congress (ANC) in the Western Cape said Zille’s apology for tweets she made about colonialism was merely a ploy to keep her position as premier.

Her “unreserved apology” though, was “disingenuous and an insult” to South Africans’ intelligence, ANC provincial secretary general Faiez Jacobs said.

“The apology that Zille has given is clearly just a maneuver to try to get the DA out of the hole it has dug for itself,” Jacobs said on Tuesday. “The apology is nothing more than a cynical face-saving strategy due to the polls indicating that they are losing black voters because of the party’s stance on race, racism and colonialism,” he added.

For three months Zille refused to acknowledge that she deeply offended many black South Africans, he said.

“The truth is that Zille realized that she would be kicked out as premier of the Western Cape if she went the route of the party’s disciplinary process and so decided to strike a deal with Maimane in which she remains in her position as premier. Does the DA really expect South Africans to believe that it does not have confidence in Helen Zille to the extent that she has been banned from party activities, but has confidence in her to lead a provincial government on its behalf?”

Western Cape premier Helen Zille. Photo: Nasief Manie/Foto24

He claimed Zille’s pro-colonialism remarks “go to the heart of the DA’s philosophy, policies and attitude to our people’s history and their current marginalized existence. Preserving privilege and the ill-gotten gains of centuries of oppression and exploitation is the DA’s priority,” Jacobs added.

Further to Jacobs’ comments ANC Western Cape shadow premier Khaya Magaxa said:”The Zille agreement to keep her as premier of the province, does not absolve her from the continued hurt she caused not only to the citizens of the Western Cape, but also the legislature and her high office. She has caused massive loss of public trust.”

The provincial ANC called on Zille to be removed as premier, as her position and attitude to key issues was “untenable and unsustainable”.

It looks that outside the DA, many South Africans, and indeed Africans are skeptical of the apology and the issue seems far from forgiven.