DA responds after GOOD pens open letter seeking clarification on Mazzone's qualifications

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DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone denies that she lied about her qualifications.
DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone denies that she lied about her qualifications.
Jan Gerber/News24
  • The DA attacked GOOD after the party questioned Natasha Mazzone's representation of her qualifications.
  • The DA insinuated that GOOD wants Mazzone out of the way, in service of the ANC's RET faction.
  • GOOD rejected the insinuation and said the DA's answers didn't clear up the ambiguity surrounding Mazzone's qualifications.

The DA on Wednesday went on the counter-attack against GOOD, who had been questioning DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone's representation of her qualifications.

In the wake of DA Western Cape leader and aspirant mayoral candidate Bonginkosi Madikizela's suspension as MEC after it emerged that he didn't complete the BComm degree noted on his CV, GOOD secretary-general Brett Herron questioned why Mazzone's Wikipedia page was edited and her legal qualifications removed.

READ | Zuma's defence lawyers quit less than a month before corruption trial starts

On Tuesday, Herron sent an open letter to DA leader John Steenhuisen, asking for clarification on Mazzone's qualifications.

He posed the following questions:

  • According to Ms Mazzone, and her fellow-MP husband, she did five years of legal articles. According to Ms Mazzone, she was appointed as a City Councillor at the age of 21, and prior to that she was a student at the University of Pretoria. In which years did Ms Mazzone do her five-year legal articles, given that articles must be completed on a full-time basis?
  • As with matric qualifications, articles are completed by passing examinations. Did Ms Mazzone complete her articles as claimed?
  • A 2010 article on techcentral.co.za quotes the DA website stating Ms Mazzone having a legal background and being in the process of completing an LLB. Is she still working towards this degree?
  • On what basis were Ms Mazzone's qualifications described by the DA on businesstech.co.za as "legal qualifications"? Who supplied this information to the party, and then to the publication?
  • On self.gutenberg.org it is reported that, 'During her University career Natasha studied an LLB law degree and took Political Science and International Relations as extra subjects.' There is no reference to not having completed the studies. Who supplied this information to self.gutenberg.com?

In a statement released on Wednesday, the DA's deputy federal council chairperson, Ashor Sarupen, said the party notes Herron's letter and presented what Sarupen called the "simple facts:"

  • Natasha Mazzone has, over many years, publicly, stated that she never finished her law degree, and she has never claimed to be an attorney or advocate. In her publicly available statements, she has reiterated this;
  • She has completed her articles as well as LEAD [Legal Education and Development] Legal Training;
  • Her articles were done in terms of section 5(3) of the Attorneys Act. As an attorney himself, Herron would be familiar with this;
  • The DA has sent Ms Mazzone on various workshops and courses over her 24 years of service to the party, and 21 years of service to the public, including those on political science with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation;
  • Ms Mazzone's biography provided by the DA on its website, throughout her two tenures as deputy federal council chairperson, never made any reference to legal qualifications.

Sarupen said: "It must also be noted that Ms Mazzone has publicly stated repeatedly, including on her verified Twitter account, that she had not completed her law degree."

READ | Madikizela and Mazzone: What effect will it have on the DA?

He said third party sources contradict a "long, verifiable record from the individual concerned".

According to Sarupen, several "malicious edits" were made to Mazzone's Wikipedia page over the past year, which was constantly undone.

"It would appear that Mr Herron has looked at only the most recent batch of malicious edits to that page, and not the sustained attempt by cyber-bullies to manufacture outrage against Ms Mazzone and other members of the DA through this mechanism."

Brett Herron
GOOD MPL Brett Herron in his office in the Western Cape legislature.

He said any reasonable person knows that Wikipedia, being editable anonymously by any person, is not a reliable source.

"However, Mr Herron successfully demonstrated that those propagating falsehoods are either digitally illiterate, determined to manufacture scandals where there are none, or are involved in the malicious creation of false information intended to defame Ms Mazzone."

Sarupen then went on the offensive, noting that GOOD is not participating in any of Wednesday's by-elections, "choosing instead to focus all its efforts on trying to take down Natasha Mazzone ahead of the impeachment inquiry of the Public Protector, rather than testing its electoral viability at the ballot box".

"The timing of this cannot be chalked up to mere coincidence."

GOOD supported Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's impeachment last month, and Mazzone, who brought the removal motion to Parliament, doesn't serve on the committee that will investigate Mkhwebane's fitness for office.

Sarupen went further:

"Considering that the GOOD party and its leader have endorsed various radical positions from the RET wing of the ANC, I presume we can take this, as well as the party's failure to contest any by-elections, as a sign that GOOD is more interested in assisting the ANC in taking out decent opposition MPs who hold its ministers, including ones who construct washing lines for border fences, to account."

Herron found the DA's response "alarming".

He confirmed that they took a "strategic decision" not to participate in Wednesday's by-elections due to it being months away from the municipal elections.

He said the DA's claims that GOOD supports the RET faction and wanting to "take out" critical opposition MPs is "absurd". He confirmed that GOOD did support an inquiry into Mkhwebane and said that process isn't dependent on Mazzone alone.

Herron said the issue isn't about Mazzone; it is about public service integrity.

He said there is a lot of ambiguity about Mazzone's qualifications.

"The DA's response failed to remove this ambiguity," he said.

All they have to do to put the matter to rest is provide evidence.

He said the question isn't whether a politician has certain qualifications. It is whether qualifications are exaggerated or misrepresented.

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