DA clarifies contradictions over Maimane’s Steinhoff-sponsored car

A report by ‘Rapport’ at the weekend said the DA leader drove a car that was a gift from disgraced former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane pictured during an interview on Talk Radio 702 on 30 May 2018. Picture: 702

JOHANNESBURG – The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Monday disputed claims by its deputy federal executive (FedEx) chairperson Mike Waters that leader Mmusi Maimame failed to declare a Steinhoff car donation.

The controversy has laid bare divisions within the party. Waters told Eyewitness News on Sunday that Maimane never claimed that the donation of a white Toyota Fortuner by Steinhoff's former CEO Markus Jooste was never brought before its executive or national management committees.

Meanwhile, its FedEx chairperson James Selfe told Rapport that the party's senior management was aware of the car.

The publication reported at the weekend that Maimane received the car ahead of the 2016 municipal elections and refused to return for months, despite warnings from colleagues about possible reputational damage to him and the party.

Selfe told the publication they were aware of the car and it was returned following the controversy involving the retail conglomerate’s “accounting irregularities”. The story also followed a report earlier this month that Maimane declared a house worth almost R4 million as one of his assets on the parliamentary registry, which was later found to belong to Durban businessperson Wessel Jacobs.

But speaking to EWN on Sunday, Waters claimed that the donation was never brought before its executive or national management committees. He said he had also requested clarity on the Claremont house that Maimane said he was renting.

“One would expect that national management and FedEx would be taken into confidence when such gifts are given to the party so that everything is above board and everyone knows everything,” Waters said. “What I’m wanting is documentary proof that Mr Maimane is actually paying rent first of all, and secondly, paying a market-related rent.”

DA national spokesperson Solly Malatsi told EWN on Monday that despite Waters’ claims about the Steinhoff donation, the car was previously declared to its leadership and a decision was taken to return it.

“The issue of the car has been declared previously to the leadership of the organisation. Just because one individual claims that he never knew about it, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t declared,” Malatsi said. “The FedEx chairperson [Selfe] of the party, in fact, confirmed that this car was made as a donation to the organisation and it was used by the party leader and that the party was aware of it,” he added.

Malatsi said the DA had a fundraising unit that dealt with raising money for the organisation, which also compiled reports submitted and presented to the FedEx on a monthly basis.

“When the car was donated, the party did not have the knowledge of the extent of the controversy that surrounded Steinhoff. Hence upon those revelations, the party had the discussion about the status of the donation and rightly resolved; as a result of those revelations, it would be inappropriate to maintain the donation. Hence the vehicle was subsequently returned,” he said.

Questioned whether Waters was present when the car was declared to the DA and when the decision was made to return it to Steinhoff, Malatsi said meetings of the FedEx were closed-door and refused to comment further.

“That is for Mike Waters to answer. The leadership of the party deals with the daily running of the party and it made the decision to return the vehicle. So, there is no question whatsoever about the status of where the vehicle is, the vehicle was returned,” Malatsi said.

He added: “Unlike some individuals, it would be unethical for me to speak outside of closed meetings based on which individual said what at what time. At the end of the day, when the party leadership took the decision, the decision represented the organisation despite the discussion that could have taken place.”

Maimane responded to the allegations against him via Twitter on Sunday, saying they were part of a smear campaign by “gutless individuals” who were spreading lies about him.