Transparency and accountability are vital pillars of democracy. Without transparency there cannot be accountability and without accountability transparency is redundant. Our Constitution recognises and entrenches principles of transparency and accountability in government. Section 41(1) (c) provides that “spheres of government and all organs of state within each sphere must provide effective, transparent, accountable and coherent government for the Republic as a whole”.

But it seems South African politics are on an evolutionary trajectory from a practice of spin-doctoring the truth, to a culture of blatant and incessant lying without consequence. Blatant dishonesty by public representatives has become a methodical practice. While the practice long became synonymous with the ruling party, it appears the opposition’s roof is leaking heavily too.

The Democratic Alliance, as the official opposition party, is indispensable to building a strong democracy. The question then is: What happens when the opposition becomes caught up in the same web of blatant lies and deceit? Consider the following chain of events:

[1] On 05.03.2011 — The Sunday Times published a story alleging that the influential Gupta brothers often “bragged” about giving money to both the opposition and the ruling party. The brothers allegedly donated to a number of parties including the Democratic Alliance. According to the report the DA refused to answer to the allegations, stating that it was against the party’s policy to disclose the identity of party donors.

[2] On 27.01.2013 — The Weekend Argus ran a front-page story saying the DA allegedly ”took money from the Guptas”. The report stated that DA leader Helen Zille had allegedly gone into the Gupta compound and emerged with a substantial cheque.

[3] On 29.01.2013 — Zille responded to the allegations in her weekly newsletter. She said the DA had received a donation from Stefan Nel, an executive at one of the Gupta companies. Although she admitted to being invited to receive the cheque at the Gupta household in Saxonwold, she said it “was a personal cheque from his personal bank account. It did NOT come from a Gupta company, nor from the Guptas, but it was handed over at their home … the DA subsequently thanked the donor … and, because we had been guests at the Gupta’s home, our fundraising department included our standard letter of thanks to the Guptas, even though the donation had not come from them”. Zille makes no mention of an electronic transfer.

[4] On the same day (29.01.2013) — The New Age, in response to Zille, reported that the alleged donor, Nel, had denied making donations in his personal capacity. According to the report, a donation receipt issued in his name was subsequently corrected. The report included photocopies of a letter addressed to Atul Gupta (“Managing Director, Sahara Computer (Pty) Ltd”) and a receipt for R300 000.

[5] On the 30.01.2013 — The Independent Online reported that Zille had shed more light on the donation. According to the report, Zille — addressing to reporters at parliament — did not deny the letter but said “she was under the impression the cheque came from Sahara and not Nel in his personal capacity”. (Very different from the above.)

[6] On 02.02.2013 — DA chief executive Jonathan Moakes released a statement apparently to clarify the facts about the donations. According to the statement the DA had been assured by the supposed donor (Nel) that the donations were indeed in his personal capacity. The statement says “click here for the correspondence” but there is no link! It includes a link to scans of two cheques drawn by a Mr SJD Nel. Moakes concludes that “[t]he bottom line is: the DA has received donations from Stefan Nel, an executive at Sahara computers, in his personal capacity”. (Now, go back to number 5)

[7] On the 3.02.2013 — Zille tweeted something totally different (see some tweets captured here). She said that she did receive a donation from Sahara, allegedly intended by the Guptas as a bribe. She said she had accepted the money but was “not bribable”. In her own words, she said: (a) “I asked for a donation. Not as a bribe. I received it as a donation and treated it as such. What is so hard to understand?” (b) “In 2009 there was no reason not to ask for a donation from Sahara computers. The Gupta controversies arose in 2010” and (c) “ … we did nothing wrong in accepting the money as a donation. The Guptas’ intentions are irrelevant. We were not bribed.” (For your satisfaction, I have uploaded some of the tweets here.)

For me there are inconsistencies so glaring they are insulting to any comprehending person: (i) Why did Zille go to the Gupta compound and what was discussed? (ii) If there were two cheques from Nel, why did the DA address the receipt for R300 000 to Sahara for the attention of “Mr Atul Gupta”? (iii) On her Twitter page Zille admits to accepting money allegedly intended as a bribe. What money is she referring to?



Brad Cibane

LLB (UKZN), MIBL (UCL, France). A student of Anarchism. I write in my personal capacity. [email protected] / @Brad_Cibane

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