Back to Africa Check

No, South African opposition politician Helen Zille didn’t tweet support for Israel ‘without holding back’

IN SHORT: Former Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille is no stranger to controversy. But a statement purporting to be from her, offering support for the state of Israel as it wages war in Gaza, came from a social media account impersonating Zille.

As South Africa enters an election year, a screenshot of an old tweet that seems to show a former opposition party leader expressing her party’s unconditional support for Israel is going viral.

The tweet, which is still live, is from an X (formerly Twitter) account named “Hellen Zille”. It’s dated 9 November 2010 – more than 13 years ago.

It reads: “we will support Israel without holding back!”

Helen Zille led the Democratic Alliance (DA) from 2007 to 2015 and was premier of the Western Cape province from 2009 to 2019. 

The DA is the largest opposition party to the ruling African National Congress and governs the Western Cape.

As of January 2024, Zille chairs the DA’s federal council.

Screenshots of the tweet are circulating on social media in January 2024 mainly with this comment: “HELEN ZILLE HAS SPOKEN - THE DA WILL SUPPORT GENOCIDE OF PALESTINE - TO HELL WITH ALL OF YOU. DA=ISREAL = GENOCIDE = #DAmustFALL”

It can also be seen here, here and here.

But the former DA leader never tweeted it. Before we explain why, some background.

ZilleTweet_False

Israel’s war on Gaza and South Africa’s genocide charge

Israel declared war on Hamas after the militant Islamic group attacked Israel from the Gaza Strip on 7 October 2023, killing 1,139 people and taking hundreds as hostages. 

Gaza is a small and densely populated Palestinian territory largely within Israel.

Israel responded to the Hamas attack with airstrikes on Gaza, a total blockade of the territory and a ground invasion. The blockade has cut off the supply of even essential goods such as food, water, medicine and fuel.

 

A majority of United Nations member states recognise Gaza and the larger West Bank to the east as the state of Palestine. Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, has ruled Gaza since 2007.

According to Gaza’s health ministry, by 22 January 2024 the Israeli assault on the territory had killed at least 25,295 Palestinian people in the strip and injured another 63,000.

About 1.9 million of Gaza’s estimated population of 2.1 million had fled their homes for safety by the end of 2023.  

On 29 December South Africa filed an accusation of genocide against Israel at the ICJ. Hearings for the case were held on 11 and 12 January 2024. The court is expected to make a ruling on 26 January.

A four-tweet imposter account

The tweet promising support for Israel “without holding back” is from an imposter account that only posted four times in November 2010. The most obvious sign that it isn’t Zille’s is that her first name is spelled “Hellen” with two Ls, instead of “Helen”.

Zille’s official account was set up in February 2009 and is verified. It includes a bio and has 1.5 million followers. She’s tweeted from the account more than 77,200 times.

The imposter account was set up almost two years later, in November 2010. It is not verified, has no bio and has just 8,195 followers.

An advanced search reveals that Zille has not mentioned “Israel” or “Gaza” on her X account since 7 October. She appears to have been publicly silent on the war.

In a 2014 opinion piece she said she supported a two-state solution that recognised both Israel and Palestine, and restored the 1967 borders. The DA expressed the same view in November 2023.

Republish our content for free

Please complete this form to receive the HTML sharing code.

For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?

Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.

The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.

You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.