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Biography of Helen ZILLE

South Africa > Politics : Helen ZILLE

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Born on 09/03/1951 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

  • Helen Zille  (b. March 9, 1951) , is the  South African leader of the Democratic Alliance and a former mayor of Cape Town . She has been Premier of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament since 2009.

Helen Zille was born in Johannesburg and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Witwatersrand.

Prior to entering politics, Helen Zille made a name for herself during the apartheid era as a political journalist, working for the Rand Daily Mail, South Africa’s leading liberal newspaper.

Working there, she emerged as a leading anti-apartheid critic, famously exposing the circumstances behind Steve Biko’s death in police custody in 1977.

She became involved in various NGOs and organizations, including the Open Society Foundation, the Independent Media Diversity Trust, and the Black Sash.

She joined the former Democratic Party in the mid 1990s, where she was asked to reformulate the party’s education policy and stand as a candidate on its election list for the Western Cape legislature. She also acted as Technical Adviser to the party at CODESA in the early 1990s. Helen was elected to the provincial parliament in the 1999 general election and appointed MEC for education.

She served as MEC under the newly formed Democratic Alliance until 2001, and then as Leader of the Opposition in the Provincial Legislature until she was elected to the National Assembly in 2004.

As a Member of Parliament she served on the Portfolio Committee on Education, and was the Democratic Alliance’s National Spokesperson.

In May 2006, Helen was elected mayor of Cape Town and in 2007 she was elected Leader of the Democratic Alliance.

On 14 October 2008, Helen was awarded the 2008 World Mayor award by City Mayors, an international urban-affairs think tank.

After winning the Western Cape province in the 2009 general election, the Democratic Alliance appointed Zille Premier of the Western Cape.


Helen Zille received several awards for her accomplishments. She was chosen as the finalist for South African Woman of the Year Award in 2003. In 2006 she won the award of Newsmaker of the year. She has written and edited the book, Building an African Icon. Received the World Mayor Award in 2008.

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Last update : 06/17/2010

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