News / South Africa

Vicky Abraham
2 minute read
22 Jun 2017
5:00 am

Knives out over Zille lawyer fees

Vicky Abraham

BLF objects to state attorney acting for Zille in Equality Court case of tweets made in her personal capacity.

FILE PICTURE: Western Cape premier Helen Zille. Picture: Alaister Russell

The Black First Land First (BLF) movement has laid a complaint against Helen Zille with the public protector for alleged abuse of public funds to defend herself in the Equality Court.

The former Democratic Alliance leader has been taken to the Equality Court for her tweets about colonialism, which angered many South Africans. That complaint was also laid by the BLF, which accused Zille of “insulting blacks”.

An initial hearing at the Equality Court on Monday took place in Zille’s absence. The second complaint laid by the BLF with Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane alleges that state resources were abused to defend Zille at the Equality Court.

Zille’s spokesperson, Michael Mpofu, said Advocate Karrisha Pillay confirmed she was instructed by state attorney Charlene van Tonder to act on Zille’s behalf. Mpofu said the Western Cape government was footing Zille’s legal bills in this matter.

But BLF leader Andile Mngxitama argued the tweets were posted in her personal capacity, not as the premier, yet she “has sought legal help from a state attorney”.

Asked why the provincial government was paying the premier’s legal costs, Mpofu said: “The issue is simple. The claim has been brought against the premier of the Western Cape.”

Ministry of justice and correctional services spokesperson Advocate Mthunzi Mhaga said Zille was being represented by the state attorney based on a request by the Western Cape premier’s office. The state attorney merely acts on instructions of the premier’s office, he added.

Mhaga said the department was not responsible for funding Zille’s representation, but “the premier’s office is the entity that’s responsible for this. Therefore the representation and payment of costs related to this should be dealt with through the office of the premier”.

Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, Cleopatra Mosana, said disclosing confidential information about investigations prior to finalisation compromised the process.

Mpofu said they were not aware of the public protector’s probe, but they would cooperate with her office.

The matter has been postponed to August 24.

Mpofu said The Citizen should scrutinise the BLF’s motives for allegedly chanting “one settler one bullet” at the end of court proceedings on Monday, adding: “It is also common knowledge that the BLF, in turn, is a front for the Guptas who are desperate for any diversion from the mass looting of the state featuring daily in the headlines.” –