|Premier of the Western Cape|
6 May 2009
|Preceded by||Lynne Brown|
|Leader of the Democratic Alliance|
6 May 2007
|Preceded by||Tony Leon|
|Mayor of Cape Town|
15 March 2006 – 30 April 2009
|Preceded by||Nomaindia Mfeketo|
|Succeeded by||Dan Plato|
|Born||Otta Helene Zille
9 March 1951
Hillbrow, Johannesburg, Transvaal Province, Union of South Africa
|Political party||Democratic Party (Before 2000)
Democratic Alliance (2000–present)
|Alma mater||University of the Witwatersrand|
Helen Zille (legal name Otta Helene Maree née Zille; born 9 March 1951) is the Premier of the Western Cape, a member of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, leader of South Africa's opposition Democratic Alliance political party, and a former Mayor of Cape Town.
Zille is a former journalist and anti-apartheid activist, and was one of the journalists who exposed the truth behind the death of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko while working for the Rand Daily Mail in the late 1970s. She also worked with the Black Sash and other pro-democracy groups during the 1980s. In the political arena, Zille has worked in all three tiers of government – as the Western Cape province's education MEC (1999–2004), as a Member of Parliament (2004–2006), as Mayor of Cape Town (2006–2009), and as Premier of the Western Cape (2009–present).
Zille's work as mayor, and in particular her successes in tackling crime, drug abuse and unemployment in Cape Town, led to her selection as World Mayor of the Year in 2008 - from a field of 820 candidates. She was also chosen as Newsmaker of the year 2006 by the National Press Club in July 2007, and is a former finalist in the South African Woman of the Year Award. Zille speaks English, Afrikaans, and Xhosa as well as German, the language of her parents.
Early life and career
Early years, education and family
Helen Zille was born in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, the eldest child of parents who separately left Germany in the 1930s to avoid Nazi persecution (her maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother were Jewish). Her father's uncle was the artist Heinrich Zille. She was educated at Johannesburg's St Mary's School, Waverley and the University of the Witwatersrand, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Zille began her career as a political correspondent for the Rand Daily Mail in 1974. During September 1977, Minister of Justice and the Police J.T. Kruger announced that anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko had died in prison as the result of an extended hunger strike. Zille and her editor Allister Sparks were convinced Kruger's story was a cover-up, and Zille obtained concrete proof of this after tracking down and interviewing various doctors involved in the case.
The Rand Daily Mail's lead story, headlined "No sign of hunger strike - Biko doctors", sent shockwaves through South Africa, and Kruger immediately threatened to ban the paper, while Zille received death threats. Zille and Sparks were represented at the subsequent quasi-judicial Press Council by leading defence lawyer Sydney Kentridge, but the two were nonetheless found guilty of "tendentious reporting", and the paper was forced to issue a "correction". Kentridge later helped confirm the accuracy of Zille's account when he represented the Biko family at the inquest into his death. That inquest found Biko's death had been the result of a serious head injury, but failed to find any individual responsible.
Zille was heavily involved in the Black Sash movement during the 1980s. She served on the regional and national executives of the organisation, and was also vice-chair of the End Conscription Campaign in the Western Cape. During this time she was arrested for being in a "group area" without a permit, and received a suspended prison sentence. Zille and her husband later offered their home as a safe house for political activists during the 1986 State of Emergency, and she was temporarily forced into hiding with their two-year-old son. She knew and was mentored by anti-apartheid figurehead Harry Schwarz since she was a child.
Zille was also actively involved in the South Africa Beyond Apartheid Project and the Cape Town Peace Committee. She later gathered evidence for the Goldstone Commission which investigated attempts to destabilise the Western Cape before the elections in 1994.
Education policy work
Zille formed a public policy consultancy in 1989 and in 1993 she was offered the position of Director of Development and Public Affairs at the University of Cape Town. During this time Zille also chaired the governing body of Grove Primary School, and in 1996 led a successful challenge against government policy limiting governing bodies' powers to appoint staff.
Zille was then invited by the then Democratic Party to write a draft policy for Education in the Western Cape. In 1999 she became a Member of the Western Cape Provincial Legislature, and was appointed MEC for Education.
In 2004 Zille became a Member of Parliament with the Democratic Alliance (DA). Within the DA she rose to the level of deputy federal chairperson and served as national party spokesperson and spokesperson for education.
2006 municipal elections and aftermath
In the 2006 municipal elections, the DA became the single largest party in Cape Town with 42% of the vote, ahead of the African National Congress (ANC). Zille was elected mayor by 106 votes to 103 on 15 March 2006, after the DA obtained the support of several smaller parties.
After assuming office, Zille's multi-party government decided to revoke the appointment of the Cape Town City Manager, Wallace Mgoqi, whose term of appointment had been controversially extended by the outgoing ANC executive mayor, Nomaindia Mfeketo. Zille's decision was upheld by the High Court which ruled that the extension of Mgoqi's appointment by the previous mayor had been unlawful.
Zille has faced considerable opposition and confrontation with the ANC. In September 2006, the provincial ANC MEC Richard Dyantyi, announced he planned to replace the city's political system. Dyantyi wanted to impose an executive committee system, changing the mayoral committee system. The move would have resulted in Zille being stripped of her executive mayoral powers and her power considerably reduced.
Under this policy, the winning party would not be able to assign every one of the ten seats — rather these would be allocated on a proportional representation basis. The matter was later resolved, with Dyanti and Zille settling on the terms of retaining the current mayoral system whilst the ANC was provided with two additional sub-committees in areas of the city controlled by the ANC.
Zille's commitments as mayor included Cape Town's role as a designated host city for the 2010 World Cup, as well as the construction and financing of the Cape Town Stadium, which hosted 8 FIFA World Cup football matches in 2010.
A particular concern of Zille was the problem of drug abuse in Cape Town, particularly crystal methamphetamine (tik) abuse. She called for the promotion of drug rehabilitation centres and further funding from the government to battle drug abuse, and met with local communities to discuss the issue.
Zille objected to plans to incorporate the metro police into the broader police service, arguing that such a move would remove considerable power from local government and vest more control in the hands of the National Police Commissioner at the time, Jackie Selebi, who was later convicted of corruption.
Economic growth and employment
As mayor, Zille presided over rapid growth and development in the City of Cape Town. Gross geographic product (GGP) increased by over 12% - from R116.6 billion in 2005 under the ANC before she was elected, to R130.77 billion in 2007 - two years into her tenure. During this time the official unemployment rate also declined from 20.7% to 17.9%.
Under Zille, the city's debt was also cut by nearly R1 billion, which allowed capital for service delivery to be increased by 15%.
Crime and urban renewal
Housing and service delivery
Though provincial rather than local government is tasked with housing delivery, Zille claimed that her municipality's efforts to reform housing lists and improve verification processes also allowed housing delivery to be increased from 3000 units per annum under the ANC, to 7000 units per annum between 2006 and 2008 under her administration as mayor.
In an article entitled "The ANC is pro-poverty not pro-poor" published shortly before the 2009 general election, Zille pointed out that under the ANC administration no budget allocation existed for upgrading informal settlements, while in 2007 her own administration set up a dedicated budget for provision of water, electricity and sanitation. In addition to maintaining existing water and electricity subsidies, Zille also raised the subsidies on the indigent database, and ensured that electricity was supplied to informal settlements that Eskom refused to electrify, such as Happy Valley and Site B Khayelitsha.
On 15 March 2007, Zille declared herself a candidate to succeed outgoing leader of the Democratic Alliance, Tony Leon. A favourite from the start, with backing from the Western Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, the Free State and even the Eastern Cape (regarded during much of the build-up as the stronghold of main rival Athol Trollip), she was elected as the new leader by a large majority on 6 May 2007. She indicated that she would lead the party from outside Parliament, while continuing in her position as executive mayor of Cape Town.
Since becoming leader of the Democratic Alliance, Zille has challenged the ruling government on a number of issues.
Of particular concern to Zille was the government's response to alarming crime statistics released in July 2007. She has accused the government of rewarding criminals by placing individuals convicted of serious crimes high up on their national parliamentary lists. Zille has said that the DA would reinstate child protection units, the South African Narcotics Bureau and the Scorpions unit, all of which have been disbanded.
In August 2008, Zille announced proposals to boost the size of the police force to 250 000, employ an additional 30 000 detectives, improve detention programmes and use of information technology, and radically overhaul the justice system. She also said the party's comprehensive new crime plan would include provisions for a Victims of Crime Fund.
Zille has warned against the controversial National Health Amendment Bill, legislation allowing greater state intervention in private health care. She has warned that the state will destroy the system, that is rated as the fifth best of its kind in the world.[by whom?] She outlined the possibility that the Bill could drive away thousands of skilled medical professionals. Together with her political party, she proposed an alternative health plan, for the privatisation of state healthcare.
As DA leader, Zille has also frequently questioned judicial independence in South Africa, in light of the alleged behaviour of the Cape judge president John Hlophe in trying to influence the Constitutional Court judges to rule in favour of ANC president Jacob Zuma. She also cited racism directed towards those in the judiciary, and has criticised the perceived double standards vocally:
|“||When it comes to black judges, the ANC’s subtext is different. There is an expectation that, as beneficiaries of transformation, black judges will put the ANC first. If they do not, they risk provoking the ire of the party leadership.||”|
On Hlophe she said:
|“||[He] is the epitome of a judge who is ’in consonance’ with the ruling party. He behaves like an ANC deployee, he is tainted by shady dealings and he is not afraid to play the race card when he needs to.||”|
Zille has also publicly denounced the Zimbabwean regime, calling for former-President Thabo Mbeki to abandon his 'quiet diplomacy' policy and take a tougher stance towards the Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe. She has called for the South African president to publicly acknowledge that the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe is illegal and illegitimate; to sever all formal diplomatic ties with Zimbabwe and withdraw all diplomatic representatives; to impose smart sanctions on the Zanu-PF elite, including travel bans to South Africa and the freezing of all South African assets linked to Mugabe and Zanu-PF; and to lobby for the suspension of Zimbabwe from the United Nations, the African Union and the South African Development Community.
In June 2008, she challenged the president of the ANC and the 2009 presidential candidate, Jacob Zuma to a public debate on ten key issues such as the arms deal, disbanding of the Scorpions, the situation in Zimbabwe, HIV/Aids and labour legislation. Zuma has since declined to participate. She has since requested a public debate again:
|“||Zuma said earlier in the year that he was willing to debate anything, with anyone, at any time. Yet, he ignored my challenge for a debate on the future of the Scorpions and he is refusing to debate me now.||”|
Campaign against drug and alcohol abuse
Eight members of a group called the People's Anti-Drug and Liquor Action Committee (PADLAC) were arrested on Sunday 9 September 2007 outside the Mitchell's Plain police station. Zille was then arrested when she visited the police station to investigate. The group had been distributing pamphlets in the campaign against the abuse of alcohol and drugs in Cape Town. Police have alleged that she supports vigilante groups opposed to drug abuse. She appeared in the Mitchell's Plain Magistrates Court later that week for contravening the Regulation of Gatherings Act. Zille is expected to sue the Minister of Police for wrongful arrest. On Tuesday 11 September 2007 Zille appeared briefly before the Mitchell's Plain Magistrates Court together with a group of ten persons who had been arrested with her.
On Sunday 30 September 2007 it was reported that senior intelligence sources, who were unhappy with the ANC's plans to subvert state institutions to do ANC bidding, had leaked information to Zille that operatives with weapons were infiltrating PADLAC with the ultimate objective of bringing down the leader of the opposition. On 23 October 2007, Zille was acquitted of all charges brought before the Mitchell's Plain Magistrates Court on the grounds that the prosecution's case against her and nine other defendants did not stand a chance of succeeding. Zille has reiterated her intention to sue the South African Police Services (SAPS) branch in the Western Cape for wrongful arrest.
On 8 March 2008, Helen Zille took her anti-drugs campaign to Johannesburg, leading a protest march. Marchers wore DA t-shirts, bearing the message No to drugs and save our children.
World Mayor award
|“||Helen Zille is a passionate and very hard-working mayor who has stood up to enormous bullying to push for improved service delivery in her city. — www.worldmayor.com||”|
There was controversy when the ruling ANC used its majority in the National Assembly to block (without notice) a motion by the Democratic Alliance acknowledging Zille's achievement in winning the 2008 World Mayor award.
Premier of the Western Cape
The 2009 general elections presented Zille with her first major electoral contest as leader of the DA. She was selected as candidate for Premier of the Western Cape, and her party succeeded in winning a 51.23 percent of the province's vote. Zille was installed as Premier, and replaced as mayor by Dan Plato. Nationally, the DA gained significant ground as official opposition, winning 16.66 percent of the vote, and increasing its tally of seats in both houses of Parliament to 77.
Row with Jacob Zuma
In May 2009, shortly after being elected Premier, Zille wrote a letter to the Cape Argus newspaper that was accidentally copied by her spokesperson to the left-wing Sowetan newspaper. Responding to criticism from gender lobby groups and the ANC over her all-male provincial cabinet, Zille stated in the letter that the ANC had never even been led by a woman, and that its leaders set bad examples on gender issues. She cited South African President Jacob Zuma's "deeply sexist views", accused him of being a "womaniser", and condemned him for putting "all his wives at risk of contracting HIV" by having unprotected sex with an HIV positive woman. Zuma, a polygamist, admitted in his rape trial that he had known that the woman with whom he had had sex was HIV positive.
Zille's condemnation of Zuma's behaviour was then used by the Sowetan as the basis of a front page story entitled "Zuma an AIDS risk". The paper stated that Zille had "launched an extraordinary new attack" on Zuma. This heralded a wave of attacks on Zille from both the ANC and a number of its left-wing alliance partners. The ANC Youth League claimed Zille was racist, and that her all-male cabinet consisted of "boyfriends and concubines so that she can continue to sleep around with them". The claim, made without substantiation, drew the ire of the DA, who are in the process of consulting their lawyers over a possible defamation suit. The Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association restated the Youth League's sex claims, and warned it would launch "a political programme aimed at rendering the Western Cape ungovernable". The ANC also criticised Zille, but distanced itself from the remarks of its Youth League, stating that they were "deeply embarrassing". In response, Zille claimed that the Sowetan and other publications had manufactured the row, and given off the impression that both sides had been spoiling for a fight, even though she had done nothing more than write a factual letter to a newspaper. She also claimed that the whole row exemplified South Africa's warped approach to gender issues:
|“||[T]he (male) gender commissioner has remained silent about the extreme sexism of the ANC Youth League and the Umkhonto we Sizwe War Veterans Association that both accused me of appointing men to my Cabinet in return for sexual favours. Contrast the commissioner's silence on this issue with his vocal threats to take me to court to impose quotas on the Western Cape Cabinet. His obsession with quotas is actually a useful diversion from the real issues that oppress women in South Africa.
Have you ever heard the gender commissioner challenge the assumption, still held by millions of South African men, that multiple unprotected sexual encounters are their right? This is the worst manifestation of South African patriarchy, and it is encouraged by the behaviour of some leaders. It is also the main reason why we cannot bring the AIDS pandemic under control and why women bear the greatest burden of this disease. I will keep making these points no matter how much outrage it elicits. Denial and political correctness are far easier than challenging deep-rooted cultural norms of sexual dominance that are the root cause of gender oppression.
In May 2009, Zille accused the ANC of asset-stripping. She related to the transfer of 1 000 hectares of provincial land in the Western Cape to a national body. The transfer was signed off by the former premier Lynne Brown on 21 April 2009, the day before the national elections. Zille has alleged that the deal was done "secretly, in bad faith and with an ulterior motive". The ANC responded by claiming that the land deal had been publicly tabled in Parliament several times over the years and there was nothing sinister about it. Zille later said that she would call for a review and rescindment of the agreement and would lodge a dispute at an intergovernmental relations meeting, but the matter was resolved in January 2010, when the ANC's Minister of Human Settlements, Tokyo Sexwale, agreed to return the land to the province before the matter could be taken to court.
2011 municipal elections
Shortly after securing the Premiership of the Western Cape, Zille mentioned that her party's preparations for the 2011 local government elections would begin immediately. Following its success in Cape Town, the Democratic Alliance had aimed to lead a multi-party coalition to victory in other cities in the country, including Pretoria, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Ekurhuleni.
2008 xenophobic violence
In May 2008, there was controversy surrounding the management of xenophobic violence against foreigners. People displaced from their homes were first accommodated in community halls and churches for several weeks. After attempts at re-integrating people into their communities failed, the City of Cape Town made available several holiday camping sites and army bases available to house refugees. At an unbudgeted cost of over R100-million, the City provided shelter, sanitation, health services and food, assisted by several NGOs. The UN High Commission for Refugees was unable to provide any material assistance. Some criticised the conversion of the holiday accommodation, even going so far as describing the sites as "internment camps". But it was telling that, when the City attempted to move those living there back into their communities, many resisted this move, preferring to stay with the safety and services in the holiday venues.
Criminalisation of deliberately spreading HIV with multiple partners
The Cape Argus of 9 November 2011 reported that, while addressing a wellness summit hosted by the Western Cape Health department, Zille had called for irresponsible men who refused to use condoms and had multiple sexual partners, to be charged with attempted murder, and for Government to shift its focus from the treatment to the prevention of diseases. Some AIDS activists warned against such a move, arguing that this would provide an incentive for people not to get tested for HIV, and called Zille's remarks "careless and misleading." Among those who criticized Zille's position was the Constitutional Law scholar Pierre de Vos. Zille's views on the matter were fully set out in her own newsletter.
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- Fingers pointed in Cape land row Voice of the Cape
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- Cape land transfer dispute resolved Eyewitness News
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- Helen Zille winner of the 2008 World Mayor Prize
- Helen Zille's blog
- Helen Zille's interactive social media profile at Zoopy.com
- City Mayors profile
- City Mayors profile Español
- Quotes about Cape Town's mayoral system
- Zille voted Newsmaker of the year
- CapeInfo interview with Helen Zille
- Interview with Helen Zille at metkere.com
|Mayor of Cape Town
|Premier of the Western Cape
|Party political offices|
|Leader of the Democratic Alliance