Mmusi Maimane and the Steinhoff-funded Toyota Fortuner

Hit the brakes: After the Steinhoff scandal broke in 2017, the DA held on to a Toyota Fortuner the company had given it in 2016.
Hit the brakes: After the Steinhoff scandal broke in 2017, the DA held on to a Toyota Fortuner the company had given it in 2016.

While DA MPs were busy hauling Markus Jooste over the coals regarding hundreds of millions of rands being wiped out amid allegations of corporate fraud at Steinhoff, the party’s leader, Mmusi Maimane, was driving a car that was given to the DA by Jooste.

City Press’ sister publication Rapport has learnt that Maimane allegedly refused to return the vehicle for months, despite desperate warnings from colleagues about the possible associated risks for him and the party.

Jooste, who was the chief executive officer of the Stellenbosch-based Steinhoff conglomerate between 2000 and December 2017, gave the DA the white Toyota Fortuner in 2016 ahead of the local government elections on August 3.

The DA yesterday confirmed through James Selfe, the chairperson of its federal council, that the Fortuner remained the property of a vehicle rental company, but Steinhoff paid the rental fees for the vehicle.

It was provided to Maimane by the DA as a work vehicle.

On December 5 2017, news of South Africa’s biggest corporate fraud scandal came to light when Jooste resigned as chief executive of the company amid warnings of alleged “corporate irregularities”.

Within days, nearly R300 billion in investor savings was wiped out after the Steinhoff share price went into free fall.

As news of the scandal spread, Selfe confirmed that the party decided to return the vehicle.

“When the allegations against Steinhoff came to the fore, we thought that, under the circumstances, it was correct to return the vehicle, which we later did.”

However, he would not say exactly when the vehicle was returned.

It appears that Maimane continued to use the Fortuner months after senior colleagues expressly outlined the risks.

One of them was Paul Boughey, the chief executive officer of the DA, who yesterday confirmed advising Maimane to return the Fortuner.

Five separate DA officials, two of whom were in Maimane’s inner circle, have confirmed to Rapport that they recommended that the vehicle be returned immediately.

The party leader was very unwilling to return the car

A DA leader, who spoke to Rapport on condition of anonymity, said Maimane was still driving the vehicle four months after the Steinhoff scandal broke, and that “immense pressure” was placed on Maimane to return it.

“The party leader was very unwilling to return the car. The risks had to be repeatedly spelled out to him, Selfe and the party’s management,” the DA member said.

Another DA MP said: “He was told to get rid of the car, but he didn’t want to listen.”

It is understood that several MPs were concerned about what the public would think if the DA attacked Jooste in Parliament while a vehicle paid for by Jooste was sitting in Maimane’s parking space in the parliamentary precinct.

“I saw the car in the parking area even as David Maynier [a former DA MP] was talking about Steinhoff in Parliament,” said a source.

When Rapport asked Maimane why the vehicle was not returned after the scope of the alleged corporate fraud became apparent, his spokesperson, Azola Mboniswa, would only say: “Please address your queries to federal executive chairperson James Selfe, in view of the fact that it was a donation to the party.”

The DA received a donation in the form of the use of a motor vehicle for a limited time

Maimane refused to answer any questions about when the vehicle was returned, or why he disregarded his colleagues’ warnings.

Selfe said: “The DA received a donation in the form of the use of a motor vehicle for a limited time to assist the party in campaigning for votes in the Western Cape and to help transport the leader of the party in the execution of his duties.

“The party at no stage took ownership of the vehicle – the use thereof was facilitated by a vehicle rental firm, the costs of which were carried by Steinhoff. Taking into account that it was a work instrument provided by the party, in the same manner that an MEC is provided with vehicles by the state, we did not consider it necessary to declare it.”

Maimane is at the head of the DA’s campaign to hold President Cyril Ramaphosa accountable for donations made by the company Bosasa, now African Global Operations, to the ANC over the years, and to Ramaphosa’s internal presidential election campaign in 2017.

Steinhoff said that it would not comment on the alleged activities of a former chief executive officer.

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