Western Cape Premier Helen Zille Picture: ANA

Johannesburg - The Democratic Alliance (DA) has refuted claims that Western Cape Premier Helen Zille's overseas trips were a waste of public money.

Opposition parties on Tuesday lambasted Zille over her overseas trips that cost of R540 000 “because it brings no economic benefits to the province”.

Earlier this year Zille travelled to London to attend an education conference. She also went on trade missions to Singapore and Ghana.

The African National Congress (ANC) chief whip, Pierre Uys, said: "Almost every week we see the Premier travel overseas and, quite frankly, we don’t know why she is going over there. 

"There is little value to the trips, we see very few other MECs attend these events and it is always being organised by Wesgro. It is clear that there is no value to citizens. It is a total waste of money".

African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) provincial leader Ferlon Christians said: "But if we are not signing new trade agreements or if we are not creating jobs, why is the premier going overseas? We need new trade agreements that will create new jobs. We are living in a tight budgetary environment ... we can’t just go overseas for fact-finding.”

Responding to the criticism the DA said claims by the ANC and the ACDP that Zille’s overseas trips have “no economic benefits for the province” are "feeble, baseless accusations".

DA member of the provincial parliament, Daylin Mitchell, who is also the chairperson of the standing committee on the premier, said the accusations against his boss were "cheap attempts at political sabotage by opposition parties desperate to divert attention away from the fact that the Western Cape remains the best performing province in South Africa". 

He said Zille's international presence was responsible for successes in the Western Cape that include:
 
* The investment of close to R10 billion in the province over the past 5 years, creating some 6500 jobs for our residents;
* The recent ranking of the City of Cape Town as one of the top cities for foreign direct investment strategy, the only city in Africa;
* The signing of deals worth R110 million on Halaal export trade from the Western Cape to Senegal;
* The fact that the Western Cape is now home to more than 60% of South Africa’s information and communications technology start-ups;
* An 18% increase in international tourist arrivals, bringing R18 billion into the province;
* The Western Cape is home to the country’s fastest growing economy, with the lowest unemployment rate and the smallest number of discouraged work-seekers;
 
"The DA’s brand of clean, corruption-free governance is the exact economic surety and trust that potential international investors seek when they come to our shores. In a province where 98,4% of the budget is spent, with a government that has received 100% clean audits for four years running, sound, reliable trade deals can be made," said Mitchell.
 
He said the premier promotes her government’s best practice to international investors as it is their principle concern when deciding where to invest their money. Premier Zille’s trips abroad are proven to guarantee immense international investment in the Western Cape.
 
"As the DA in the Western Cape, we continue to have full confidence in Premier Helen Zille as she leads our province as the best performing and cleanest government in the country, worthy of the international praise it receives as a result of her international trade missions."