/ 22 April 2008

Zille determined to battle Erasmus commission

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille on Monday vowed to take her fight against the Erasmus commission to the Constitutional Court.

The commission was set up by Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool in December 2007 to investigate the City of Cape Town’s probe into controversial councillor Badih Chaaban. The city’s probe was meant to determine whether Chaaban had allegedly bribed other councillors to cross the floor.

Addressing the Cape Town Press Club, she said the commission was an ”illegal and unconstitutional hit squad” set up by the African National Congress to wrest control of Cape Town from the DA.

She took a swipe at commission chairperson Judge Nathan Erasmus, saying he had allowed himself to be abused by the ANC. His decision to chair the commission had undermined the independence of the judiciary required by the Constitution.

Zille insisted that the DA had ”never, at any time” given anybody instructions to conduct illegal surveillance.

The Erasmus commission’s sittings were suspended last week pending the City of Cape Town’s application to the Cape High Court challenging the commission’s legality.

”Rasool’s aim is to do as much damage as possible, through smear and innuendo, to me personally in the run-up to the 2009 elections with the aim of preventing the party I lead from winning the Western Cape,” Zille said.

An ”exhaustive inquiry” by advocate Josie Jordaan found that the city had not broken the law while investigating Chaaban. Police investigations similarly found no evidence that the DA had engaged in illegal spying.

Zille quoted from a letter the National Intelligence Agency sent the ANC-led Cape Town administration in 2004, warning the ruling party about Chaaban.

According to the letter, Chaaban is ”involved in a wide range of organised crime activities, including dealing in false passports, the drug trade, money laundering, prostitution, human trafficking and murder”.

Had former DA provincial chairperson Kent Morkel, who crossed the floor to the ANC, succeeded in becoming mayor of Cape Town, with Chaaban as his deputy, it would have made ”Nigeria’s local kleptocrats seem like amateurs”, she said.

Zille also hit out at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), saying its coverage of the commission was ”selective, to put it mildly”. It was no coincidence that the commission’s secretary, Zithulele Twala, was the brother of Mzukisi Twala, regional editor of SABC’s television news, she said. — Sapa