The New Age has disputed DA leader Helen Zille's account of the donations her party received from a "senior executive" who worked for a company owned by the Gupta family (see here).
In her weekly online newsletter SA Today the DA leader said she had been introduced to this individual in 2009 by Chris Hattingh, the DA North West provincial leader. She added that her The fund-raising staff made an appointment for me to speak to him. I did, and I received a pledge of R200,000."
"The donor then suggested that I come and fetch the cheque at the Gupta's house in Saxonwold, and it transpired that he was a senior executive in one of the Guptas companies. I and my colleague Ian Davidson duly went to the Guptas home, ate some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten, and received the cheque for R200,000 from the individual who had made the pledge. 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."
The executive, Zille wrote, made two further donations of R100,000. The first, was in 2009 during the national and provincial government election campaign. The executive wrote out "a personal cheque from his private bank account in the amount of R100,000." The second was in 2010. 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)."
In a front page report in The New Age today the newspaper claims that the donor - who it says is a senior executive at Sahara Computers - "denied her claims and countered that at no stage was there a handing over of cheques to Zille at the Gupta residence." It then quoted him as saying:
"In fact quite the opposite occurred. There were various meeting at the family home between Zille and members of the Gupta family. The first electronic funds (EFT) transfer was done by Sahara. The rest of the EFTs were also made through Sahara...Yesterday (Monday) I received four frantic calls from Zille seeking information on the donations to her party. It was clear that she could not remember what had transpired in her engagements with the Gupta family. From the beginning there was no confusion I was representing the Gupta group of companies. Surely, she could not have been under the impression that I took her to the Gupta house for cake, tea and good food."
The newspaper adds that "In fact, in one case a receipt was issued in the name of the donor, but was corrected and changed to a Gupta group company after the matter was corrected with the DA."
The New Age report quotes its editor Moegsien Williams as saying the DA leader "seems to be hell-bent on besmirching the name of the shareholders, management and staff of The New Age by making untrue allegations of funds being channelled to the ANC via The New Age." Williams said the newspaper was willing to open itself to an independent audit to test this allegation. "If her claims, which we know to be unfounded, are proved wrong by the auditors we expect a public apology."
The newspaper also published Zille's letter of thanks to Atul Gupta, in May 2009, as well as a receipt from the DA to Sahara Computers for a donation of R300,000 for the attention of "Mr Atul Gupta - Managing Director" from the same month. See below.
Update: Sapa reports that, during a press conference in parliament earlier today, Zille did not deny writing the letter. She however "explained the letter was sent before she was informed a R200,000 donation, received in 2009 for the party's election campaign, came from Stefan Nel, a Sahara Computers executive director. The Guptas own Sahara and Atul Gupta is the company's managing director. Zille said she was under the impression the cheque came from Sahara and not Nel in his personal capacity."
Apart from the cheques paid by Nel directly the DA also received "an electronic transfer of R100,000 from Islandsite Investments, which is also linked to the Gupta family." Zille said that at the time these payments were received the Guptas had not been linked to scandal.
However, she later instructed her party's fundraising department not to have anything to do with the Gupta family or their companies. She added that "Early in 2011 when I started getting concerned they [the Guptas] may be channelling money to the DA via Mr Nel, I gave instructions, that's in the file, [that there will be] no more fundraising from Mr Nel... It's all recorded."
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