Thirteen questions on spy claims

Helen Zille's answers on private-eye controversy

1. What are the allegations in this matter?

There are two allegations. The first is that the City of Cape Town paid an account of R98,630 to George Fivas and Associates (GF&A) that should have been paid by the DA.

The second allegation, made later by Premier Ebrahim Rasool, is that GF&A also investigated the various parties in the multi-party government of Cape Town, as well as various opposition parties.  The Premier has implied that such alleged investigations were undertaken on the instruction of the City and/or the DA.

2. How has the City reacted to the allegations?

Both the City and the DA have denied these allegations.

However, in order for an independent conclusion on these matters to be reached, I am in the process of appointing Geoff Budlender, through the Council's prescribed procedures, to determine whether the City did pay an account from GF&A that it should not have paid. After the second allegation arose, I extended the investigator's brief to examine whether any person acting on behalf of the City, or any party within the City, mandated GF&A to investigate any other political party. I have also requested the committee to investigate my own actions throughout this matter.  The findings will be made public.

In addition, I have instructed that amounts the City still owes to GF&A be withheld pending the outcome of the Enquiry.  If any amounts are due to the City, they will be recovered.

The Speaker and I have also written to Police Commissioner Mzwandile Petros requesting to listen to the tapes, allegedly in the possession of the police, that have been used as the basis of the allegation that various parties in the City were subject to investigation by GF&A.  The Premier has offered Patricia de Lille, the leader of the Independent Democrats, the opportunity of listening to such tapes, and the same opportunity should be available to all other interested and affected parties.

I have pledged before, and I do so again, that there will be no cover-up whatsoever.  We will be entirely open.

3. Was GF&A commissioned by the City and, if so, why?

Yes, GF&A was commissioned by the Speaker in order to investigate Badih Chaaban, after the Speaker received complaints, primarily from councillors of the Independent Democrats, that Chaaban was using bribery, corruption and later threats, to induce them to cross the floor to his new Party.  Chaaban repeatedly and publicly claimed that he would hold the balance of power after floor-crossing, enter a coalition with the ANC, and install himself as mayor.

The allegations made by ID councillors against Chaaban pointed to serious breaches of the Code of Conduct that binds all Councillors.  The Speaker is legally compelled to investigate such alleged breaches, and did so through GF&A (private investigators on the City's database of approved service providers) due to the serious nature of the threats.  The Speaker and City Manager have assured me that they followed the necessary procedures, and made arrangements for some of the Councillors to have 24-hour security.  The Speaker has told me he chose GF&A because they are known as a "reputable firm".

The Speaker submitted the contents of GF&A's reports into Mr Chaaban to the prosecutor in Chaaban's recent disciplinary hearing, where he was found guilty on six counts under the Code of Conduct.  The disciplinary committee has asked Council to recommend to Mr Richard Dyantyi, the MEC for Local Government, that Mr Chaaban be removed from office.

In their report to the City, GF&A gave a written guarantee that all their work complied with the requirements of the law:  "This was all done within the framework of the law and furthermore the law was applied and taken into consideration at all times during the execution of our task".  The City accepted this assurance.

4. Was GF&A commissioned by the Democratic Alliance to undertake any investigation?

No. James Selfe, the Chairman of the DA's Federal Executive, has reported to me that the DA received a quotation for an investigation into Chaaban's activities in the run-up to the cross-over because of fears for the safety of councillors.  However, the DA did not accept the quote, nor contract or commission GF&A to do any work on the Party's behalf.  When the DA was informed that the Speaker was required by law to undertake an investigation; Selfe concluded there was no point in commissioning another one.

5. What was GF&A's brief from the City?

The Speaker asked GF&A to submit a quotation to investigate the complaints received from Councillors in respect of  Badih Chaaban.  The relevant documentation issued by the Speaker describes the situation as an "emergency matter that could lead to the possibility of human injury and/or death or possible breach of Code of Conduct for Councillors in terms of Systems Act."  GF&A provided a quotation, dated 1 June, that was accepted, and two further quotations as the investigation's time period was extended.  On each occasion the GF&A quotations are only for investigative work to establish whether the allegations against Chaaban made by various councillors, could be verified and whether Chaaban constituted a threat to their lives, as they feared. 

6. Why was it necessary to contract an outside investigation agency?

In a country with a functional criminal justice system, this would probably not have been necessary, because people like Badih Chaaban (and associates such as Cyril Beeka, or the late Uri "the Russion" Ulianitski) would have been called to account through the institutions of State.  This is, regrettably, not the case in this instance.  No action has been taken against Chaaban despite the fact that charges have been laid against him and despite the fact that he publicly boasted about his unlawful intentions.

Given the nature of Chaaban's alleged activities in relation to councillors, the Speaker deemed the matter very urgent and wished to expedite an investigation. He concluded that the City did not have the capacity to do so.

7. Does the City have any electronic recordings of Councillors' conversations in its possession?

Yes, the Speaker has tapes that were recorded by ID councillors and a DA councillor of conversations they had with Chaaban.  These councillors were acting on their own initiative and were involved in the conversations they recorded.

8. Was GF&A at any time asked by anyone in the City to monitor or investigate any political party or person other than Badih Chaaban?

The Speaker has given me an absolute assurance that he never requested GF&A's mandate to include the monitoring of any political party, which is substantiated by the written brief. The focus was exclusively on the allegations involving Councillor Chaaban. I was not involved in issuing terms of reference or a mandate to GF&A.

Let me make it quite clear:  In a democracy it is entirely unacceptable and wrong to spy on political parties engaged in legitimate political activities. If the City or anyone in the DA had mandated GF&A to place political opponents under surveillance, it would indeed be a major scandal. My colleagues have given me a categorical assurance that this has not occurred. Until evidence to the contrary emerges, I accept their word. The independent inquiry will investigate this matter. If these allegations are substantiated, I will ensure that appropriate disciplinary action is taken without delay.

9. Did GF&A place other parties or persons in the City under surveillance on their own initiative?

Only GF&A can answer this question. I have put this question to Mr Niel van Heerden of GF&A and he has categorically denied this allegation in writing.  Mr Philip du Toit, who was sub-contracted by GF&A to undertake the Chaaban investigation, has been arrested and I have therefore been unable to put this allegation to him directly.  He has denied this allegation through his legal representative.

10.  Did the City pay a bill it should not have paid?

This is part of the investigation I have set up.  I have received and examined the relevant paper work, and can understand why questions have been asked about an invoice received from GF&A (and paid by the City) of an amount of R98,630.  The dates on the invoice indicate that this work was undertaken before GF&A was contracted by the City.  Mr Niel van Heerden of GF&A has already indicated to the City in writing that they made date errors on the invoice.  This issue will be fully and openly addressed in the investigation.  It was correct to draw it to my attention.  There was no attempt at a cover-up, nor will there be.

11. What did the Mayor know?

I knew that the Speaker had decided to commission an investigation into Badih Chaaban, following serious complaints by Councillors. I had read a transcript of a tape recording, submitted to the Speaker by a councillor from the Independent Democrats that illustrated the seriousness of the situation.   I knew that the Speaker had decided to commission GF&A to undertake the investigation.  I knew that the DA had considered instituting its own investigation but was later informed that James Selfe had decided against it when it emerged that the Speaker was required to do so.  On one occasion, I met Mr Niel van Heerden and Mr Philip du Toit at my office.  All the rest of the information published here emerged as a result of my further enquiries into the matter this week. 

12. Why has this issue been turned into a "scandal"?

This is clearly another attempt to bring down the multi-party government in Cape Town and install an ANC-led coalition, after the failure to do so during the floor-crossing.  This is underscored by the fact that Badih Chaaban has asked MEC Richard Dyantyi to place the City under the administration of the Province.  It is also demonstrated by Premier Rasool's attempts to convince Patricia de Lille, the leader of our largest coalition partner, that her party has been the subject of an investigation by the City or the DA. Rasool's transparent purpose is to drive a wedge between the two largest coalition partners in the City of Cape Town in order to break the coalition. 

It is, in fact, a profound irony that the City initiated the GF&A investigation in response to complaints by ID councillors, and to ensure their protection.  The City and the DA have acted in good faith to all members of the coalition throughout.  Above all, the real agenda is reflected in the desperate attempts to link my name with allegations of illegal activity. The same thing occurred when I was arrested after participating recently in a peaceful and legal march.  On this occasion, as with the march, I have done nothing wrong and I have nothing to hide.  I will do everything possible to ensure we get to the truth in this matter.

13. What are the unanswered questions in this matter?

Further enquiries are urgently needed to the following questions:

  • Why are the police not taking action against Badih Chaaban, despite charges having been laid against him?
  • Why has Premier Rasool rejected my written request to him to use his constitutional powers to undertake a full judicial commission of enquiry into the state of policing in the province?
  • In contrast, why has the Premier been so keen to initiate an investigation of the City's probe into Badih Chaaban?  Why has he never previously expressed any interest in the findings of the disciplinary enquiry into Chaaban?
  • Why have the police given information that is the subject of an investigation to political leaders to use to their own ends?
  • Why have documents in the possession of the police been selectively leaked to the media?
  • Why is the Western Cape Police Commissioner, Mzwandile Petros, holding press conferences to convey untested, selective information to support Premier Rasool's allegations against the DA-led City administration?
  • Are the police actions in this matter another example of the abuse of State institutions to advance the ANC's agenda?
  • Why is Premier Rasool offering access to selected police information to certain parties in Cape Town's multi-party government and not to others?
  • Are Premier Rasool and Commssioner Petros protecting Badih Chaaban in the same way that President Mbeki and Commissioner Selebi are allegedly protecting Glenn Agliotti?
  • In short, where does the real scandal lie?

Helen Zille is Mayor of Cape Town and leader of the Democratic Alliance