Helen Zille stayed rent-free for almost three months in a Cape Town property owned by one of three authors of the explosive review report which recommended that then leader Mmusi Maimane be given the axe.
But Zille is adamant that her stay in the holiday home of a DA donor and Capitec boss, Michiel le Roux, was not a conflict of interest, given that it was before her comeback to politics when she had retired at the end of her term as premier.
City Press can reveal that the now DA federal chairperson and her husband Johann Maree stayed Le Roux’s Blouberg house between August and October last year, an arrangement which Le Roux described on Saturday as helping “a friend”.
Several senior DA leaders have cried foul saying that in their view the matter was a conflict of interest and put forward the argument that the report, penned in part by Le Roux, paved the way for Zille’s comeback.
Insiders said they would request the federal legal commission to investigate the matter.
The Capitec boss said Zille (68) and her husband were waiting for a retirement house to become available when he took her in because she had moved out of the government house in Leeuwenhof, Cape Town, where she lived for a decade during her term as premier.
“I offered my house as temporary accommodation. When she decided to re-enter politics, they decided to move out of our house. I helped a friend and I see no problem,” Le Roux told City Press.
Maimane gave the task of assessing the DA’s electoral performance last year to Le Roux – with former party leader Tony Leon and former party chief strategist Ryan Coetzee.
The assessment triggered Maimane’s early resignation last October.
He was also forced to explain his living arrangement with another DA funder as well as the use of a car given to the party by former Steinhoff chief executive Markus Jooste.
Zille said on day that her situation could not be compared with that of Maimane because in her case “no one paid for my house or anything”.
She said the family moved out of the house at the beginning of November last year, just days after she was elected to take over from James Selfe as federal chairperson.
This means she would have been staying at the house during her campaign for the post.
“Last year from the first of November we were out. I was elected on October 20. We moved there from the beginning of August after being overseas for the most of July. Either from July or the beginning of August. Probably three months,” said Zille.
“The minute I went back into politics I moved out of his house. It would have been wrong to stay there. I moved out instantly when I went back into politics to avoid any conflict of interest.
“There is definitely no conflict of interest. I was out of politics; he thought I was out of politics and I thought I was out of politics.”
Those in the party who are suspicious of the arrangement said her stay there overlapped the period in which she was campaigning for one of the party’s most powerful positions.
One insider said that the arrangement was something which should have been made known. “It is inappropriate; Helen had a donor paying for her legal fees, something that was not allowed in the party. The inappropriateness of that was raised and no one did anything about that. Now that she is in the most powerful position in the party, it appears that she has solicited places to stay from a donor.
“She has never declared or shared this information with anyone so we have no way of knowing what the details of that arrangement were. We found out about the arrangement coincidentally after the donor in question wrote a report which had huge implications for the leadership of the party and, indirectly, for Helen because she had a huge role in determining how that report was presented to structures. It all just seems too coincidental and anyone can connect the dots for themselves,” the person said.
Zille told City Press that her family immediately rented a property in Newlands after her surprise return to politics.
“We sold our house and we were anticipating moving into a security complex at the end of my term as premier. However, the house was not available then.”
She said Le Roux “heard that we were looking for a place and told us he had a place in Blouberg that was not occupied and offered to let us stay there. We all thought I had ended my political career then.”
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