Western Cape premier Helen Zille’s trip to Asia, accompanied by her husband, Johann Maree and three officials from her department, reportedly cost taxpayers at least R1 million.
Zille travelled to Singapore and Japan and allegedly spent R636 159 on “travel, accommodation and other others”, and R500 000 was paid to Wesgro, a provincial government entity tasked with encouraging economic growth and investment in the Western Cape, but does not fall under Zille.
The company also organised seminars during the trip, Sunday Times has reported.
Zille reportedly told the publication she realised that the amount spent was “hefty”. She, however, further said it meant an average of R127 000 per person all expenses included, “which is within a reasonable ballpark for this kind of trip”.
Two officials stayed for two weeks while she and her husband and Dr Laurine Platzky, the deputy director-general for strategic programmes in her department stayed for nine days.
She further told the publication to bear in mind the exchange rate. She also did not take a personal secretary to “save the costs”. Her husband, who reportedly did research, went with her for the first time in eight years on an official government trip. “According to the handbook he may come on every trip,” she was quoted as saying.
ANC provincial chief whip Pierre Uys reportedly told the publication that the ruling party would ask the auditor-general to investigate the trip to be clear on what it entailed, what it achieved and whether it was legal for the department of the premier to make that payment to Wesgro “in that way”.
Following the trip, Zille received criticism for her tweets on colonialism, saying it was not “only negative”.
The former DA leader made reference to the apparently positive legacy of colonialism to “our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water”, among other things.
Despite the scathing response she received on Twitter, Zille continue to justify her view, making further reference to “specialised health care and medication”, which she said would not have been possible without the “colonial influence”.
Later after that, she apologised “unreservedly for a tweet that may have come across as a defence of colonialism”.