The DA is shooting itself in the foot by refusing to explain its alleged relationship with the Gupta family.

S’thembiso Msomi: The DA is shooting itself in the foot by refusing to explain its alleged relationship with the Gupta family.


Columnists

When the Sunday Times asked the party, two weeks ago, if it had ever benefitted from donations by the family or any of its companies, DA federal chairman James Selfe refused to say.

“The DA has a long-standing policy never to disclose information about donations to the party . [We] do not say who does or who does not donate to the party,” Selfe said.

On Sunday, City Press reported that DA leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille had refused to confirm or deny allegations that she had visited the Gupta compound in Saxonwold, Johannesburg, in October.

The newspaper quoted sources that said that they had seen Zille being dropped at the house by a driver and that she had gone inside alone.

Instead of a straightforward answer, admitting or denying that Zille had visited the Guptas, her spokesman, Priya Reddy, adopted the same stance as Selfe, hiding behind party policy of not revealing the identity of its donors.

Mind you, City Press had not asked if the family funded the DA – it wanted to know if the party leader had visited the house.

For a political party that professes to be a great advocate of an open society, the DA’s behaviour is curious.

An open society, the DA tells us in its policy documents, is one in which, among other things, “transparency and accountability” are guaranteed.

Well, it is time party leaders practised what they preach.

If Zille did visit the Gupta homestead, she broke no law. Like any other citizen, she has every right to pay a visit to the home of whomever she wants. But her party’s refusal to confirm or deny that she did so leads to suspicions that she has something to hide.

There have been too many rumours about the Guptas holding sway over our political elite. Much of this has centred on their ties to President Jacob Zuma and his family.

But there have also been allegations that the brothers – or those connected to them – often brag to ANC and government officials about their influence extending far beyond the ruling party.

Unless the DA and other political parties are open about their sources of funding, it is difficult not to believe that their unusual silence when the Gupta story first broke had to do with donations to party coffers.

Zille should take a leaf out of United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa’s book.

When the Sunday Times approached Holomisa with similar claims that his party was a beneficiary of the Gupta brothers’ generosity, the former Transkei ruler readily admitted to having received R100000 from the family.

“They helped us with the conference last year and it was the first time we had gone to them,” Holomisa said.

His openness about the issue makes Holomisa believable when he says the donation did not influence his party’s attitude towards the family.

“Our integrity is not compromised. We are not apologetic . because political parties approach all companies cap in hand. We went to them in good faith and we even wrote them a letter thanking them for the donation,” Holomisa said.

As the country’s second-biggest political party – and the ruling one in Western Cape – the DA wields a lot of power.

Therefore it should be our right as citizens to know if its decisions – and of course those of the ANC – are not unduly influenced by secret funders.

If there is one thing the ANC and the DA seem to be in agreement on it is their refusal to support steps that would make political party funding more transparent.

DA leaders often say the party will open its books only once the ANC agrees to do so.

But if the party is genuine about building itself into an attractive alternative to the ANC, it will choose transparency over secrecy.

It is hypocritical of its leaders to demand that the ruling party be transparent about the Progressive Business Forum, Chancellor House and other fund-raising methods the ANC employs while it keeps its own books closed.

 

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