Zille: It’s deeper than just crapping on a journalist


Nothing that happens on Twitter will affect the outcome of South Africa’s 2014 elections, but that doesn’t mean that important stuff doesn’t happen there, writes SIMON WILLIAMSON.

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille has been known to have the odd Twitter spat with the faceless nobodies who tweet crap at her all day (as well as, well, the faced somebodies).

But on Sunday Zille said some things that were really peculiar when she decided to go after City Press journalist Carien du Plessis. For the record, I don’t know much about du Plessis, although we overlapped at the Daily Maverick for a few months (our paths never crossed and I have never met her).

And some of the things Zille had to say about her were bewildering.

I really have no issue with a politician picking a fight with a journalist. Here, in the US, it’s a daily occurrence, and, as far as I’m concerned, journalists are as fair game as politicians. If it is your responsibility to carry the news, then people who see the news differently are fully entitled to disagree with you.

And politicians will politick. Zille hating on du Plessis’ journalism (although I disagree with her point of view – Carien du Plessis is an excellent reporter) is not really the problem here. Zille really can say whatever she likes about news coverage about herself and her party.

But Zille went far past just disagreeing with du Plessis, or critiquing her work. Instead, Zille decided that the way to attack her would be to get personal – to criticise what she wrote because of who she is.

For example:


You read that correctly. Zille is accusing Carien du Plessis of writing particular articles because she is a white Afrikaner, and, evidently, is ashamed of it, or something. Zille isn’t correcting du Plessis because she wrote something incorrect, and isn’t accusing her of bias towards or against the DA (or any other political party).

No, Zille is telling the world that du Plessis can’t be an objective journalist because she is an ashamed white person who needs to kak on other white people so blacks will like her. How nice from the leader of a “non-racial” party. And what a lazy McCarthy-esque attack with which to bedonner white critics of the DA.

And that tweet wasn’t accidental. The same idea was proposed twice.


One of the favourite arguments of conservative people is that being politically correct is “bad” and “terrible” and “soft”, etc. The accusation is that you really want to say something disgusting when you use a term like “people of colour”, that you are just saying the socially acceptable thing when you really mean something else.

Let’s think of an example…

Being a white critic of the party that most white South Africans vote for? YES!

Obviously, white people can’t criticise other white people because then they are just trying to suck up to black folks, and are being PC. There’s no way du Plessis could actually believe what she, herself, says, right?

Surely the DA folks in charge of communications know you don’t let the head of your party (or anyone) tweet nonsense like this:


There’s an argument going around that if President Zuma said this he would be decried from all corners. And that is quite correct. But in that case, there really isn’t really a huge double standard: Zille wasn’t the one trying to slog the Freedom of State Information Bill through parliament.

It’s obvious Zille means that she is going to shit all over more and more journalists who report things she disagrees with. But what an absurd thing to tweet. Surely the DA communications people know that this, repeated out of context, will seem awful. Surely they remember what these four words did to Mitt Romney. Context is everything, and singular tweets don’t lend themselves to it.

This, it seems from Sunday’s escapades, is how the DA – certainly Premier Zille – is going to deal with white critics; it is going to start playing its own “race card” – the notion that white critics of the DA must surely be doing so to suck up to the black people and the left.

The DA is regularly accused of having certain stances purely to protect white interests and people, and fends off such accusations often. It’s surprising to see its leader use someone else’s white skin to try and spear them.



  1. I think the writer has got the meaning of what Zille said wrong. What zille is saying is that Carien has to try harder to come across as acceptable (to some such as the ANC, for example) because she is white. Zille uses the word complexion. There is no reference to being ashamed. And no mention of her being an Afrikaner. The only word used is complexion. I am neither for or against, I am just clarifying this point. As a journalist, the writer should be sure to get his interpretations a bit more accurate. A few classes in basic old school logic might do the trick. ” Zille is accusing Carien du Plessis of writing particular articles because she is a white Afrikaner, and, evidently, is ashamed of it, or something.” The writer’s words. The last part does not sit well in such a piece of writing, because it indicates that the writer has trouble interpreting Zille’s words. But that is surely not the case, because Zille wrote in plain basic English. essentially she is saying Carien is over-compensating for her whiteness.

  2. This whole incident is bizarre and shows up how incestuous and thin skinned South African journalists are, AND how they all go to same ideological finishing school.

    First. Race matters. Especially in a country with our history. There is no general rule that says race is not allowed to be a part of a debate.

    Secondly “The race card: That is when somebody appeals to race in a superficial, gratuitous, and unjustified way to win an argument. In this case its hard to prove any which way whether she has a point. Is it a valid argument to make? I think so. Argue with her. Don’t try and shut her up. I have seen insults aimed at Zille which are far worse than what she is accused of.

    Is it prudent for a politician to be speak her mind like this? Most spin doctors would advise against it. But the public might for once not like a straight talking politician. So should journos.

    And then this: “You read that correctly. Zille is accusing Carien du Plessis of writing particular articles because she is a white Afrikaner”.

    You are not the only person I saw making this allegation. But Zille never mentions the word Afrikaner. Could it be that the author and others thinks English whites have nothing to be ashamed of? You would not be the first.

    Journalists are hunting in packs tonight armed with self righteous rage. Being a little more self reflection would go a long way.

  3. Talking about how “thin skinned journalists are shows your lack of intelligent analysis. The journalist is very silent while Zille can’t even let it go. Who’s thin skinned?

  4. Dit is nou presies hoekom die die DA nooit my stem sal kry nie. Om dit ligtelik te stel, hulle voel fo…ol vir Afrikaners. Gaan kyk maar net na die samestelling van hulle top strukture.

  5. Excellent article. I think the writer got it spot-on and the fact that Carien is simply ignoring the racist attack on her shows her level of sophistication. However Helen Zille should apologize as this very personal attack on someone else in the public domain cannot be condoned. Public figures should be held accountable for their actions. Hopefully Afrikaners will wake up and smell the coffee…

  6. Seems to me that Simon Williamson is one such thin-skinned journalist is on a crusade against Zille. You don’t know Du Plessis yet you defend her as an excellent reporter. What makes a reporter excellent? Digging for the truth? Investigating beyond the facade? Publishing the hard facts without fear or bias? Well, that’s the core of Zille’s complaint: She’s not doing her due diligence because she doesn’t want to be seen as a racist for reporting the truth on the horrendous things that the current Government is doing. Zille is calling her out for superficial and biased reporting in favor of a certain political party. Williamson conflates that with attacking her for not reporting well on the DA – that’s a big stretch, Mr Journalist. Zille is not saying “you’re writing too much bad stuff about me and you need to side with me cos you’re white”, she’s saying “you’re a shit reporter because your work is colored by your white guilt. Get over it and get some journalistic integrity!” I think Zille’s comments are more than fair in a country where free speech is allowed and that Williamson should step back and evaluate his own biases and prejudices before publishing a woefully half baked personal opinion rant based on 3 tweets & his own thin skin.

  7. I am more convinced that the 50/50 campaign (that is promoting 50% women in government) MUST be qualified. We need woman who care about women and marginalised people and not those who want to perpetuate white (pale male) and capitalists (and Zionists too maybe?) interests. What Zille and some other women politicians say and esp what ZIlle DOES are embarrassing. She does play the race and Afrikaner card contrary to some of the statements above. She says ‘complexion’ and ‘of who she is’- white Afrikaner woman. So stop saying your party does not play the race card. WHO are the majority in your cabinet? – and when you say you promote meritocracy you imply that some blacks and women have no ‘merit’. Well whether Zille should continue to tweet…. if she is going to continue putting politically dubious things on- she is doing her party a disservice. But is good if politicians interact with the voters. Maybe the DA communications dept must strategise with her first. But will she listen to them is another story? We know all about the autocratic arrogant attitude that has been referred to in recent communications…


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