One daily newspaper even ran the picture on its front page.
Zille dismissed the image this week saying there were "absolutely no tears" but that she was furious and frustrated.
"That photo captured a split second after the debate when I was talking to some of the whips," she told the Mail & Guardian this week. "I was very frustrated by the lies and distortions that characterised the ANC's inputs during the debate, especially an outrageous statement by member of the provincial legislature [MPL] Max Ozinsky that Helen Suzman wanted to kill people.
"I felt the whipping was not up to scratch in that context and I was discussing that. I was furious and frustrated, but certainly not crying."
The Western Cape provincial legislature has a tradition of robust debates and colourful interactions between its members.
On May 9, the legislature held a debate on a report by the Commission for Employment Equity in the Western Cape.
Speakers from both the ruling DA and the ANC accused each other of politicking and racism. "It was very sad that the report shows that the Western Cape remains the most untransformed and the most un-affirmed province in South Africa," charged Lynne Brown, who leads the ANC caucus in the legislature and had asked for the matter to be debated. "The situation worsens year on year as we move closer to becoming a separatist and secessionist Western Cape under the DA rule."
Brown claimed that, under the DA, purging of African and Coloured staff members was a daily experience and divisions between communities were growing.
DA provincial leader Ivan Meyer, who is also MEC for sport, said the ANC has been reduced to a party that only had "one issue left on its agenda and that is race".
"We all know that this debate is not about employment equity. This debate is about racial engineering by the ANC. This debate is about racial quotas that the ANC wants to force on to the Western Cape.
"What is at stake here is that the ANC wants to punish coloured people because they refused to vote for the ANC in 2009 and 2011," he said.
ANC MPL Khaya Magaxa, who is also the provincial secretary of the South African Communist Party, who upped the ante when he questioned Helen Suzman's role in the struggle and the claim that the DA was a party of liberation.
"Their predecessors, such as Helen Suzman's Progressive Party, were collaborators of apartheid," he said. "Let me remind you that Suzman thought that you could oppose apartheid while maintaining economic apartheid."
Magaxa charged that Suzman campaigned globally against any form of sanction and had endorsed British arms sales to the apartheid regime at the height of their attacks on [black] people.
His speech drew a number of interjections from Zille, as well as from Ozinsky, who supported him. "She [Suzman] wanted to kill us!" interjected Ozinsky at one point.
Zille challenged this and a debate on whether it was parliamentary to make such a claim ensued.
Ozinsky explained that Suzman supported arms sales to apartheid, adding that: "Arms are used to kill people, so clearly she wanted us to be killed. I don't see what the point of order is."
Ozinsky based his speech on an address that former president Nelson Mandela gave to the ANC's national conference in Mahikeng in 1997, in which he addressed affirmative action.
Zille described the commission's paper as perhaps one of the most embarrassing reports the state has yet produced, saying it has fundamental flaws of logic, of numeracy, of grammar and of spelling.
"It is riddled with mistakes and it is absolute misrepresentation," she said. "And it does it for obvious reasons, because you cannot just disaggregate anything."
Although she admitted that the Progressive Party did at one stage support a qualified franchise, she said she had fought very hard as a young Prog at the time for a universal franchise.
"We won that debate long before the ANC became a nonracial organisation," she said. "The ANC only opened its doors to all races in 1969 and its leadership in 1985. They cannot lecture anybody on nonracialism."