WCape disputes allegations over Zille's R1.1m Singapore trip

2017-05-08 14:30
Western Cape premier Helen Zille reacts to an ANC speaker, Cameron Dugmore, referring to her infamous 'refugee-tweet' during a debate on racism in the Western Cape. (Jan Gerber, News24)

Western Cape premier Helen Zille reacts to an ANC speaker, Cameron Dugmore, referring to her infamous 'refugee-tweet' during a debate on racism in the Western Cape. (Jan Gerber, News24)

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Cape Town - The Western Cape government has rejected "agenda-driven" claims that the costs of premier Helen Zille's recent trip to Singapore and Japan were excessive.

The African National Congress on Sunday said it would ask the Auditor General to probe Zille's recent eight-day trip to east Asia after a Sunday Times report said it cost a "hefty" R1.1m.

"The Western Cape Government rejects outright all agenda-driven attempts to claim that the amount of R636 000 was excessive to cover all travel, accommodation and related expenditure," Zille's spokesperson Michael Mpofu said on Monday.

"This amounted to an average of R127 000 per delegation member, three of whom were overseas for eight days and the other two persons for 16 days."

The other R500 000 was paid to Wesgro, a provincial government promotional agency for the tourism, trade, and investment sectors.

Mpofu said the Western Cape's ministerial handbook was more stringent than the national handbook, and officials worked "meticulously" within guidelines.

Exchange rate

He said the Japanese and Singaporean markets were integral to the success of the province's agricultural and tourism sectors, and the creation of over 100 000 jobs.

"If costs cannot be incurred to undertake missions to these Asian markets, then we will be unable to secure the economic return for the province. The track record of our economic strategy speaks for itself."

Mpofu said the unfavourable exchange rate inflated costs in the premier's engagements in two countries over eight days, but that this would not deter her from doing the job.

He also said Wesgro facilitated "direct business engagements" as a result of the trip, and was a "world class agency" that had already secured almost R6bn worth of investment for the province this term.

Zille on Sunday said she would welcome an investigation by the Auditor General.

"Absolutely. He must investigate it. I have no problem with that. He does it in any case and I welcome it," she told Netwerk24 on Sunday after the ANC's statement.

Zille's tweets about the trip, especially about Singapore, have left her political career in the balance.

She said Singapore's legacy of colonialism was not all negative.

"For those claiming legacy of colonialism was only negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc," she wrote.

She is facing four charges of having brought the Democratic Alliance into disrepute and damaging the party's interests.

She later apologised for her comments, saying she never intended to defend colonialism.

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  helen zille  |  cape town  |  politics

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