De Lille says allegation of R5-million bribe is ‘utter hogwash’

08 February 2018 - 06:00 By Timeslive
Patricia de Lille. File photo.
Patricia de Lille. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images

Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille has dismissed as “utter hogwash” an allegation that she attempted to solicit a R5-million bribe from a businessman.

Businessman Anthony Faul alleged in an affidavit to the Democratic Alliance that De Lille had solicited a R5-million payment from him in return for her endorsing an automatic fire extinguisher which he intended rolling out to Cape Town informal settlements in 2013.

When he refused to pay‚ the endorsement was allegedly withdrawn.

However‚ De Lille‚ in a statement on Wednesday night confirming she had been informed by SAPS that a criminal complaint had been laid against her by the federal leadership of the DA linked to the alleged bribe‚ said “this could never have happened”.

Setting out her version of events‚ she said Faul’s company‚ Auto Fire Off South Africa (AFO)‚ held the rights to a product known as the AFO Fire Ball‚ which was an automatic fire extinguisher which Faul claimed was ideally suited to curb the spread of fires in informal settlements.

“On 14 November 2012‚ Mr Faul made a presentation to me and others regarding the product‚ including Alderman JP Smith and other disaster risk management officials. His proposal was that he would raise the funding for the fire balls but he needed a letter of support/intent for the project from the city.

“It is in this context that I signed the letter of intent dated 13 December 2012‚ which he drafted.”

She added that the idea was that the City of Cape Town would obtain 250‚000 fire balls for free as Faul would find the funding for the project.

However‚ by early January 2013 it transpired that Faul wanted the city to buy 1‚000 fire balls from his company.

“This made me furious as it seemed that the city had been taken for a ride and that Mr Faul never seriously intended to carry out the project on the basis initially proposed. The letter of endorsement was then withdrawn.

“In an email dated 10 January 2013 [some two days after I supposedly tried to solicit a bribe from him] Mr Faul indicated in an email that the withdrawal of the endorsement ‘obviously comes as a big surprise [to him]’ and that ‘nobody had communicated anything to us’. This is obviously entirely inconsistent with the story he now tells. Why did he not raise the bribery allegation there and then?”

De Lille added that the company had later tried to revert to the idea of funding the fire balls.

“However‚ at that stage I had lost complete confidence in the project and did not change my mind on the withdrawal of the letter of endorsement. De Lille said it was a “pity that this well-intentioned project was then jettisoned”.

“But needless to say‚ the allegation he makes that I tried to make him pay me R5-million is utter hogwash. The correspondence already shows that this could never have happened. How could I demand payment from someone who was to fund his own project?

“There was no tender and AFO was never to be paid by the City. The fact of the matter is that I terminated this project when it became clear that Mr Faul did not want to secure the funding for the fire balls as initially promised‚ but wanted the City to pay for them.” De Lille said.

De Lille said she and her lawyers had been afforded an opportunity to respond to this new allegation by the DA “but given that emails had to be collected checked we were unable to do so within the very short time permitted”.

“The DA then rushed off to the police with the allegation and immediately thereafter went on a concerted campaign of distributing the message to all and sundry that I am corrupt. With the motion of no-confidence against me to be debated next week Thursday‚ 15 February 2018‚ the timing of this latest effort to discredit me is most unfortunate‚” De Lille asserted.

She added: “My lawyers tell me that it is an abuse of the criminal justice system to lay a complaint against someone for an ulterior purpose‚ in the present instance my political demise. I do not buy Mr [DA federal executive chairman James] Selfe’s explanation that he acted because the party is obliged to report the matter to the police.

“Comparable allegations have been made against Mr Bongi Madikizela regarding the sponsorship of his birthday party; against Premier Hellen Zille regarding payment of a trip to Singapore and the boosting of her son’s business‚ but none of these issues have been reported to the police. If this was seriously the reason then the party should also have laid a criminal complaint against Mr Faul as he himself failed for more than five years to report the matter to police.”