Western Cape Premier Helen Zille. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Western Cape Premier Helen Zille says she will take Public Protector Busiswe Mkhwebane’s report, which accused her of violating the Constitution, on full review. 

Zille’s son Paul Maree is a director of Paper Video, a company that loaded teaching material onto tablets purchased via the education department. The devices were returned to the department.

ANC MPL Cameron Dugmore had filed a complaint with Mkhwebane alleging Maree unduly benefited from his relationship to the premier.

Mkhwebane found that Zille’s conduct gave him an “unfair advantage” and ordered Speaker of the legislature, Sharna Fernandez, to take steps to hold Zille to account within 30 days. She also ordered President Cyril Ramaphosa to submit his comment on the report within 14 days. 

“The premier’s involvement in the process that has resulted in securing access to the tablets in question by her son, and in the acquiring of son’s company’s services and resources, has exposed her to the risk of a conflict between her official responsibilities, as a first citizen of the province, and private interests, which involved her son,” Mkhwebane said. 

“This conduct of the premier has consequently resulted in the violation of her constitutional obligation to avoid exposure to the aforesaid risk,” she said. 

It is the newest legal tiff between the two. Zille has rejected the findings.

In a statement released a few hours after Mkhwebane issued her report, Zille said Mkhwebane “reflected her severely limited understanding of the Constitution and the law” and as such she will taking the report for review in court. 

“I reject out of hand that: there was any conflict of interest between my public role as Premier and the fact that I supported my son, a mathematics teacher in Khayelitsha at the time, to borrow equipment of the Western Cape Education Department in order to run free matric preparation workshops in disadvantaged schools; and Insofar as there may have been a perception of a conflict of interest, I fulfilled the requirements of the law in mitigating it,” she said. 

Zille said she would not have done anything differently with regards to how she handled the matter. 

“I wish to stress that if I faced the same situation today, as I did then, in 2014, I would do exactly the same because it was the right thing to do. The Director General of the Province, Advocate Brent Gerber, would also do the same thing again because it was entirely lawful, constitutional, and appropriate in the circumstances,” she said. 

“Apart from the legal errors in the report, part of the remedial action proposed is also unlawful. This is another reason why I will take the report on a full review,” Zille said.

ANC provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs said Zille should admit she was wrong to offer assistance to a workshop programme.

He urged her not to waste taxpayers’ money by appealing against Mkhwebane’s finding on the matter.

“This was a breach of the constitutional requirement that procurement should happen in a fair and transparent manner,” Jacobs said.

Politics Hub and Cape Argus