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South Africa Opposition suspends ex-leader Zille over tweet

The tweet caused furore among South Africans and within DA ranks, as the group is still struggling to shed its image as a "white" party.

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Leader of South Africa's largest opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA) Helen Zille addresses a campaign rally in Johannesburg on May 3, 2014 play

Leader of South Africa's largest opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA) Helen Zille addresses a campaign rally in Johannesburg on May 3, 2014

(AFP/File)

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South Africa's main opposition, the Democratic Alliance, suspended on Wednesday its former leader Helen Zille over a controversial tweet in which she praised some aspects of colonialism.

The feisty leader who is now the premier of the Western Cape province sparked a firestorm when she made the offending comment in March.

She wrote: "For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water."

The party said the suspension was "decided by an overwhelming majority" and that sanction would remain until a disciplinary hearing was finalised.

"The suspension is effective immediately," said a statement.

The tweet caused furore among South Africans and within DA ranks, as the group is still struggling to shed its image as a "white" party.

The DA'S top executive said Zille's action had damaged the party.

"There is no question that Ms Zille's original tweets and subsequent justifications have damaged our standing in the public mind."

The party went on to say that Zille had "refused to take the appropriate action necessary to resolve this unfortunate and damaging matter."

On Saturday, DA leader Mmusi Maimane announced Zille's suspension, before backtracking to say a final decision would be made after she was given the chance to defend herself.

A date for the hearing has been set for June 9.

Zille who has a large twitter following is no stranger to controversial tweets.

Zille, 66, is credited with growing support for the DA among black people, whose votes helped it take control of key cities, including the capital Pretoria and Johannesburg, from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) after the local government elections last year.

South Africa, which was colonised by both the Dutch and British, remains deeply divided more than 20 years after the end of white-minority apartheid rule. The DA bills itself as an non-racial and equal opportunity party.

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