Shack fires bring more legal woes for De Lille
The Gauteng businessman who accused Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille of soliciting a bribe from him has denied being part of any political plot to remove her from her position.
Instead, Anthony Faul blames De Lille for costing the city millions of rand in relief efforts for shack fires that could have been avoided had she properly procured the specialised fire extinguisher he was supplying.
The sudden surfacing of Faul’s claims against De Lille has seen the party accused of running a smear campaign against the mayor in an attempt to push her out of office, a claim the Democratic Alliance (DA) has denied.
The DA this week confirmed it had opened a criminal case against the embattled Cape Town mayor after Faul came forward with claims that she had requested a payment of R5 million from him in 2013, in exchange for a contract with the city.
Faul offered to supply the City a fire extinguisher called the auto fire off (AFO), a ball shaped device that expels extinguishing chemicals within seconds of coming into contact with fire. The product also gives off a loud explosion once activated, a move its manufacturers believed would result in the timeous notification of a looming disaster.
Speaking to the Mail & Guardian this week, Faul said he was concerned by De Lille’s lack of interest in finding prevention measures for shack fires, despite the mayor admitting that such disasters were a major issue of concern for the city.
“What I find strange is that she saw the demonstration [of the product] and she endorsed it 100% and she admitted that she knew that fires were a big issue. And now 5 years down the line still nothing has been done,” Faul said.
“How many squatter camps have burned down since then? How much has it cost the City of Cape Town to put people in new housing? All due to unfortunate circumstances that could have been avoided”.
One of the worst disasters the city saw was a fire that engulfed the Imizamo Yethu informal settlement in March last year which, according to the city, destroyed more than 3 000 homes and left 15 000 residents displaced.
De Lille this week rejected Faul’s bribery claims against her, saying in statement on Tuesday the city had initially expected to get 250 000 AFO extinguishers for free because Faul had planned to source funding for the project elsewhere.
But the deal, said De Lille, went sour when the businessman later changed his tune and demanded that the city pay. “By early January 2013 it transpired that Mr Faul wanted the City to buy 1 000 fire balls from his company. This made me furious as it seemed that the city had been taken for a ride and that Mr Faul never seriously intended to carry out the project on the basis initially proposed,” De Lille said.
De Lille, who in previous years exposed the Arms deal corruption implicating senior ANC politicians including president Jacob Zuma, claims she could not have attempted to solicit a bribe as there was no tender in place and Faul was to fund the project himself. She has also questioned why he only come forward to report the matter 5 years after it had allegedly taken place.
Faul could not answer why he had waited 5 years to report the matter, but claimed his interest was only to bring the situation to light and not to become part of a witch hunt against De Lille.
“You can interpret it how you want. You can call it clearing of the conscience, but I say I was just bringing forward the facts,” he said.
“I would not make an allegation if it didn’t happen. I’m not that type of person…I wouldn’t lie. What happens with the DA and whether they take this forward or not is none of my business”.
His initial complaint, he claims, was made in mid-January to safety and security MMC JP Smith.
Smith is known to have an acrimonious relationship with De Lille and was mentioned in the Steenhuisen report - the report of the internal investigation probing allegations that De Lille mismanaged her caucus - for his contribution to tensions and factions in the Cape Town caucus.
While Faul confirmed having an interaction with both leaders, he claimed he had not been approached by Smith to make the complaint. “I want to clarify I am not a friend of [anybody in] the DA in the way that she [De Lille] claims I am. I have never met any DA leader except De Lille and JP Smith,” he said.
Faul’s allegations are expected to be used against De Lille in an ongoing investigation into her conduct as well as to motivate for her removal in a motion of no confidence scheduled for next week.
But Federal executive chairperson James Selfe said the party had an obligation to report the matter to officials.
“We have to draw it to the attention of the police otherwise there might be penalties accrued to us. In the end those allegations will either be proved or not, it has nothing to do with smearing her at all”.