Cape Town spy commission is unlawful, says Zille

The Erasmus commission appointed to look into the Cape Town city council “spy” saga is “unlawful and unconstitutional”, city mayor Helen Zille said on Thursday.

Provincial minister of local government Richard Dyantyi could only launch such a commission in terms of the Municipal Systems Act if there were “adequate reasons” to believe that “maladministration, fraud, corruption or any other serious malpractice has occurred”, she told journalists in Cape Town.

“Senior counsel had advised that none of these conditions applied at the time of the investigation and that the decision to appoint the commission is therefore unlawful and unconstitutional.”

A challenge to the commission had a “favourable prospect of success”, according to the executive summary of legal opinion sought by Zille.

She said the Erasmus commission would rack up more than R5-million in legal costs alone, of which the city could expect to pay about R2-million.

Zille said she had written a letter to Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool asking him to suspend the commission on the grounds that it was a “gross abuse of power” and would waste taxpayers’ money, promoting the African National Congress’s (ANC) “political purposes”.

She said it was an ANC attempt to “interfere unduly” in the running of the city.

She had given Rasool until Monday morning to respond. If the reply was not favourable she would consult Cape Town’s multiparty government before deciding on her next step.

She said the police had been investigating the matter for the past few months and found nothing.

“The only reasonable assumption to be drawn is that the police have found no evidence of any wrongdoing by any person.”

The commission would further result in a waste of resources as virtually the entire upper echelon of the city manager’s office, the speaker, the mayor and various other councillors had been subpoenaed.

The Erasmus commission was established—“ostensibly” according to Zille—to look into the city’s appointment of George Fivaz and Associates to investigate councillor Badih Chaaban.

In her 14-page letter Zille wrote that while Rasool was prepared to pay more than R5-million investigating the use of R3 500, no inquiries were ever made into the Big Bay land tender.

Dyanti also never inquired into former city manager Wallace Mgoqi’s appointment of the Full Swing Trading company in the run-up to the previous local government elections.

Dyantyi had further failed to confirm Chaaban’s dismissal from the city council.

Chaaban had been found guilty of six counts of breaching the City of Cape Town’s code of conduct.

Zille wrote: “There can be no rational explanation for this, other than that the [provincial minister], for political purposes, refuses to assist or cooperate in any way with the City of Cape Town.”

She said she would “relish” the opportunity to testify before the commission if subpoenaed and would use it to “great effect”.

In a statement later on Thursday, Rasool said he had met Zille on Wednesday morning and she asked that he terminate the work of the commission.

“I agreed to apply my mind to the matter and revert to her by the weekend.

“I was therefore surprised when a 17-page letter, addressed to me, was brought to my attention by the media this afternoon [Thursday].

“I am in the process of applying my mind to the request put to me by the mayor and will revert to her in due course,” Rasool said.—Sapa

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