'Zille instigated probe into Badih Chaaban'

By Time of article published Nov 1, 2007

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By Deon de Lange and Ella Smook

Senior Democratic Alliance (DA) officials, including Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille, were intimately involved in gathering evidence against rogue councillor Badih Chaaban long before the city commissioned a private investigation into his activities.

This is revealed in a detailed affidavit that Speaker Dirk Smit (FF Plus) handed to the police on October 23.

Smit's affidavit shows that it was Zille who first alerted Smit to the fact that Chaaban was allegedly planning to buy his way to power in the city.

Acting on a tip from a Cape Town businessman - whose identity is being withheld for his own safety - that "shady characters" in the city were funding the move, Zille started gathering the evidence herself.

She started with a statement taken down in her own hand from this businessman during a late night meeting at his home on April 16.

Smit recalls how Zille phoned him that evening, requesting him to drive to the man's house to witness and sign the statement as commissioner of oaths.

This statement appears to be the first piece of documentary evidence that later culminated in a city funded private investigation into the allegations against Chaaban.

"I had heard lots of rumours (about Chaaban), but this was the first time anyone was willing to go on record," Zille explained last night.

In his statement the businessman alleges that Chaaban was collecting money from various underworld figures for his floor crossing war chest and that he had promised his financial backers a steady stream of council contracts once he was in power.

According to Zille, the businessman feared for the safety of key people in the city structure - including herself - and this had prompted him to come forward.

Smit describes a meeting with Zille "toward the end of May 2007" during which he informed her of his intention to investigate Chaaban for breaching the councillor's code of conduct.

It was at this meeting that DA federal executive chairman James Selfe - whose attendance appears to have been co-incidental - recommended controversial snoop specialist Phillip du Toit for the job. Du Toit was subcontracted to George Fivaz & Associates (GF&A) at the time.

According to Smit, this meeting took place on May 28, just seven days after the same company had given Selfe a quote for what would turn out to be an identical investigation.

Du Toit, a one-time paid informer for the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), was later arrested on charges ranging from hijacking, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and the possession of stolen goods.

He is currently being held in Goodwood prison.

Meanwhile, acting premier Leonard Ramatlakane slammed Zille for playing "accused, judge and jury".

He was objecting to the investigation, separate from the one by the police's organised crime unit, that Zille launched into the "spy saga" and the full-page advert she placed in major newspapers yesterday in which she answered several questions pertaining to the investigation

However, Zille said in the advert that in a country with "a reliable, functional criminal justice system, this would probably not have been necessary".

In her mayoral address on Wednesday, she again accused the ANC of using the police in an attempt to bring the DA-led administration down.

She said the SAPS, while failing to act on a charge against Chaaban, had moved swiftly to investigate city officials while the premier "(did not) seem to be at all interested in what the probe (into Chaaban) revealed".

But Ramatlakane dismissed Zille's parallel investigation as "deeply ironic" and "a whitewash".

Standing in for Premier Ebrahim Rasool, who is in China, he questioned the integrity of Zille's investigation.

"No amount of red herrings in the form of attacks on the police by the mayor will rewind the clock for her, and the men and women in blue should continue to perform their constitutional duties as they do daily."

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