Is Helen Zille a liar?: iLIVE - Times LIVE
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Is Helen Zille a liar?: iLIVE

Lukhona Mnguni | 2013-01-31 14:09:03.0
DA Leader Helen Zille adjusts her glasses during the final day of the DA's federal congress at the Birchwood conference centre in Boksburg east of Johannesburg. 25 November 2012. File photo.
Image by: Daniel Born

What started as an attempt to alert South Africans, by the Democratic Alliance (DA), on how their taxes are being misspent, as the lifeline of a newspaper (The New Age) owned by Zuma and African National Congress (ANC) benefactors – the Guptas – has turned into a muddy street fight between the DA and The New Age.

At the centre of this public spat is the need by the DA to maintain a self-righteous position as the clean player in South African politics.

When Helen Zille decided to withdraw from one of The New Age’s (TNA) business breakfast sessions as a guest speaker, she did so out of ‘principle’ and need to preserve the DA from association with what she and the DA perceived to be an exercise to siphon millions of rands from the government.

The principal mistake made by the DA was to have a dual battle – to outline fruitless expenditure of taxpayers’ money by those departments that advertise and sponsor TNA and in the process to discredit The New Age.

The fact that The New Age is a government sympathizer is not treated as covert information, it was clearly pronounced at the launch of the newspaper in 2010.

Helen Zille, out of needing to exonerate her integrity, lost the plot by allowing a peripheral issue to dominate the headlines. Today, the main debate is whether Zille is a hypocrite or a liar – both undesirable labels for a politician who postures as the real alternative to the ANC cadres who embody both labels simultaneously. Zille attracts these labels from her initial double stepping on whether or not the DA received donations from the Guptas. Today, it is crystal clear that the DA did receive money from the Guptas and that Zille did mislead the nation on this.

I can hear teenagers who are losing hope in the politicians we have today crying, “Where are men and women of integrity who will take this country forward?”

There is a famous idiom, “don’t bite more than you can chew” – Helen Zille did exactly that and now she is choking on it.

She must have known that taking a publication head-on was not going to be an easy task because it has freedom to publish what it wants and when it pleases it.

There is nothing new about the information that the Guptas fund opposition parties, the problem is the initial secrecy that Zille subscribed to (as mandated by DA policy) and the subsequent misleading (as mandated by her need to exonerate self) of the nation. Bantu Hlomisa, as far back as 2011, openly admitted to the Sunday Times (March 6, 2011) that his party had received R100 000 from the Guptas and also disclosed that, “They (the Guptas) helped us with the conference last year (2010), and it was the first time we had gone to them. They also donated computers for a school in Mqanduli.”

Holomisa further stated that, “Our (UDM) integrity is not compromised. We are not apologetic… because political parties approach all companies cap in hand. We went to them in good faith, and we even wrote them a letter thanking them for the donation”.

If the DA had taken this route, as opposed to secrecy, the web of lies and misleading would not have been necessary. We have a responsibility to piece together this Zille puzzle of self-made lies. On Tuesday (29/01/13), Zille released an online newsletter intended to clear the air on this Guptas funding issue. In the newsletter she accounted for R300 000 paid by a senior executive, in his personal capacity, as a donation to the DA.

On Tuesday Zille could not disclose the name of the donor because after “telephoning [their] donor to ask him to release [her] from [their] commitment of confidentiality”, the donor declined to be named because he is not a Gupta and does not need his name on the papers. However, on the next day (Wednesday) she disclosed the name of the donor as Stephen Nel to the media.

When I asked the @DA_News on twitter if they would charge Zille for breaching party policy by disclosing the donor’s name, they retorted that she had obtained permission.

It is impossible to believe that Nel who refused to be named less than 48 hours ago had now given the green light. Some journalists present noted that Zille disclosed the name of the donor because the donor was now “inventing stories”.

It can be deduced that out of spite Helen Zille breached the DA’s party policy on confidentially (or she had previously lied about the rigidity of this policy).

Indeed it was unprecedented of Zille (as she admitted) for her to call a donor from her house to release her from the DA’s commitment to confidentiality. Party policies are never changed in bedrooms; they are changed in conferences, unless the party leader in the DA has powers to override dictates of the party.

On the Tuesday online newsletter, Zille made another distortion. She wrote that “We received this amount (R100 000) by cheque, but this time the cheque was made out in the name of a company of which the donor is a senior executive.

This company is either partially or wholly owned by the Guptas (but is not one of their well-known brands such as Sahara Computers or The New Age newspaper).

On Wednesday, The New Age published a letter addressed to Mr. Atul Gupta (Managing Director of Sahara Computers) from the DA, signed by Helen Zille on the May 25, 2009. The letter was very clear, “Thank you so much for your generous donation to the Democratic Alliance”. “Thank you for your support, Thank you, for standing up for strong opposition and for a positive alternative.

Thank you for contributing to real change in South Africa”. Alongside the letter is a DA donation invoice, reference: DA REC641, sent to Sahara Computers acknowledging received donations on March 2, 2009 and May 8, 2009 at the amount of R200 000 and R100 000 respectively. Logic – and in the absence of that, fundraising practice – dictates that you do not send a letter of thank you to someone for money not received.

Strikingly, the letter was sent well after elections and it captured how the DA had grown between the 2004 and 2009 elections.

If Helen Zille and the DA wish to successfully dispel the current truth that they received money from the Guptas, knowingly, they must publish a “thank you” letter accompanied by a donation invoice sent out to this mysterious Stephen Nel.

Furthermore, the DA must publish the company name, which one R100 000 cheque was written under and happened not to be one of the well known brands like Sahara Computers, as Zille claimed in her Tuesday online newsletter. Then again, the same Zille on Wednesday asserted, “At the beginning of 2009 there was certainly no scandal surrounding the Guptas…we duly wrote to Sahara Computers, requesting a donation”. However, the previous day, Zille made no mention of this; instead, her account of how she was exposed to the Guptas was very different. She wrote, “In the run-up to the 2009 elections, the DA North West Provincial Leader, Chris Hattingh, contacted the DA’s fundraising office to say a long-standing acquaintance of his wanted to make a donation to the DA’s election campaign. The fundraising staff made an appointment for me to speak to him. I did, and I received a pledge of R200 000”.

So which one is it? Did the DA approach Sahara Computers or Sahara Computers approached them?

The problem that faces the DA and Helen Zille in admitting that they received money from the Guptas is that they have been part of the public onslaught to discredit the Gupta family to a point that the public expects no association, whether past or present, between the DA and the Guptas.

In this Guptas-Zille bout, the Guptas have demonstrated such transparency, to a point whereby one would confuse them as the advocates that are fighting the secrecy bill currently in Parliament fought by the DA but implemented by the DA in their donor funding policy.

Helen Zille, as the one time journalist who uncovered how Steve Biko died in police custody should know very well that lies have short legs and eventually the truth does come out. Our politics lose any semblance of hope when those who use to speak out and uncover the truth become embroiled in tactics of deceit, deflection and misleading of the public.

Any country’s politics are as genuine as the men and women who raise their hands to lead in the political landscape. These men and women shape how the public views politics of its nation in general.

No-one is perfect, but those who forever pretend to be most holy and untainted deserve to be called out when they err.

Zille too is fallible, but deliberately lying and misleading the nation is worth a huge vote of no confidence and earns one distrust instantly.


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