Helen Zille

Names: Zille, Helen

Born: 9 March 1951, Johannesburg, Gauteng (then Transvaal), South Africa

In summary: Journalist, Politician, Member of Parliament, Premier of the Western Cape and current leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA)

Helen Zille attended school at St. Mary's Waverley in Johannesburg. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of the Witwatersrand.

A prominent journalist and anti-apartheid activist, Zille was instrumental in voicing protest to government atrocities. As a political correspondent for the now defunct Rand Daily Mail, Zille's journalistic skills helped her uncover the true story behind Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) leader, Steve Biko's death in 1977, which she discovered were due to police brutality and not natural causes as the government had claimed. The Apartheid government’s reaction to the article was to threaten the Rand Daily Mail with banning and called Zille and her editor, Allister Sparks, before the Press Council. The Presiding Judge of the Council, Justice Oscar Galgut, found both Zille and Sparks guilty of “tendentious reporting” and forced the Rand Daily Mail to make a correction.

In the 1980s, Zille was involved in NGOs and was a member of several anti-apartheid organisations such as the Black Sash, the Open Society Foundation and the Independent Media Diversity Trust. During this time, Zille was also the press officer for the University of Cape Town

In the 1990s, Zille joined the Democratic Party, which changed its name to the Democratic Alliance and served as the Party's Technical Advisor. In 1999, she was elected the MEC for Education in the Western Cape, and was invited by the Party to draw up a draft policy for education for the Province.

In 2003, Zille was a finalist for the Shoprite Checkers Woman of the Year Award, due to her endeavours in promoting equal education in the Western Cape.

In 2004, Zille became a Member of Parliament with the Democratic Alliance (DA).

In 2006, the DA became the largest party in Cape Town, and Zille was elected mayor of the city. As Mayor of Cape Town, she has fought against drug abuse, and sought to improve economic growth, and create employment, in the Western Cape.

On 6 May 2007, Zille was elected as the party leader for the DA. In September 2007, Zille was arrested in Mitchells Plain for protesting against drugs, under the Regulation of Gatherings Act. Zille and her co-accused were found not-guilty four weeks later.

Zille speaks fluent English, Afrikaans, Xhosa and German.

Zille was awarded the Mayor of the Year Award in 2008, for her efforts to eradicate drugs and violence, and to improve service delivery. On 5 May 2009, Zille became the Premier of the Western Cape, being in control of the only province not run by the African National Congress (ANC).

Zille is married to Professor John Maree, and together they have two sons, Paul and Thomas.

 

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