I was not claiming colonialism was good - Helen Zille

WCape Premier asks how it is that Singapore was able to leaped-frog their colonial master

The separation of powers is a colonial legacy - Zille

Cape Town – Western Cape premier Helen Zille has clarified her recent tweets on colonialism, saying that her trip to Singapore opened her eyes to a different perspective.

“I am not claiming [that colonialism was good] and I would never,” Zille said at the Knysna Literary Festival on Friday.

A video of her comments were carried by the Knysna-Plett Herald.

Zille caused an uproar on social media when she tweeted that not every aspect of European colonialism was bad.

"For those claiming legacy of colonialism was only negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc," she wrote.

"Getting onto an aeroplane now and won't get onto the Wi-Fi so that I can cut off those who think EVERY aspect of colonial legacy was bad."

She later apologised for the tweets.

Zille said on Friday that her trip to Singapore made her question why some countries flourished after colonialism and some countries did not.

“...Can we have an honest conversation, the most incredible thing about Singapore is that they keep reinventing themselves," she told the audience.

“I am fascinated by the question: why have some countries gone, like Singapore, to take the English language, to take the outward looking sense of a port that was developed under colonialism and use that not only to invent themselves, but to reinvent themselves every single time?

“In 50 years, they have leaped-frogged their colonial master, not by abandoning English, but as seizing it as a language and saying this is our common denominator with the world."

Zille said she sent the tweets about the benefits of colonialism after people got upset when she said there were valuable aspects of a colonial heritage.

“So, then I said for those claiming the legacy of colonialism was only negative think of our independent judiciary,” she said.

“And the reason that I mention that, is an independent judiciary is an extraordinary border wall against power abuse. The separation of powers, the very concept is a colonial legacy.”

Zille said: “I didn’t think that was even controversial -  an independent judiciary took a thousand years to develop in the most advanced countries and we’ve inherited that and are applying it with such good effect.

“Going to Singapore opened my eyes to a different way of looking at it.”

Singapore was the first country to embrace globalism and embrace minorities to such an extent where people are elected to the highest of “on the basis of merit,” Zille said.

“Is there nothing to learn from in that, or are we going to be a country that claims that we were the only ones ever to be colonised – as evil as that was and claim that we will never go beyond it because the pain is too great,” she asked.

“We have a choice, I understand the pain and I understand the evil, and I have spent my whole life fighting it, but when I go abroad and see a whole new world of debate around these issues, and see the entire literature out there I think, can’t we actually engage these discussions?”