PLAY FAIR: An open letter from GOOD’s Peter de Villiers to the DA’s Helen Zille

I write to you in both your personal capacity, and in your role as the Chairperson of the DA Federal Executive.

It is election season and I respect that we are on opposing teams, but I expect all players to adhere to the rules. Democracy – a free and fair system based on truth and equality – is what many South Africans fought and died for.

Disrespecting those sacrifices by undermining our democracy using a fake news campaign is beneath anyone of integrity. I am deeply disappointed you have chosen that route.

I have had a chance to review the evidence of the faked video that you shared with your 253,000 Facebook and 1.4 million Twitter followers on the evening of Sunday the 12th September 2021. The video, originally posted by Mr Nicholas Gotsell, the Head of the DA’s Federal Legal Commission and Compliance, sadly demonstrates the level of ethics the DA is willing to comply with. I do not know if you shared this faked video yourself, or a staff member who you may have perhaps given access to your social media accounts did it, but you or they must have known this would send a signal to your followers that sharing fake news is acceptable. (Editor's Note: This video appears to have since been removed from Helen Zille's Facebook page.)

I assume that you chose to share this on the Sunday evening because, earlier that day, I had announced my candidacy to stand as GOOD’s Mayoral candidate for the Drakenstein Municipality.

When you shared this video, you told your followers to “Take a look”, noting that you thought that this was “an interesting endorsement for GOOD.”

In the edited version of video you shared, I am heard to say that “Let me tell you why I support the GOOD party of Patricia de Lille. She has a history of corruption - and that is why I want to encourage you to vote GOOD …” The video was manipulated, as you were no doubt aware, and the message untrue, but you chose to comment on it and broadcast it over your social media channels anyway.

In the original statement, I said the following (the sections in bold were edited out of the version of my statement that you shared):

“Let me tell you why I support the GOOD party of Patricia de Lille. Many of us who have worked very hard to improve ourselves, our families and our country, don’t receive due acknowledgement for our labour. South Africa will be a great nation when it learns to place equal value on its people, regardless of colour. The Patricia de Lille I know has opposed injustice and still continues to fight corruption. She has a history of corruption busting and principled leadership and that is why I want to encourage you to vote GOOD …”

Aside from de Lille’s well known tough stance against corruption, I admire her principled approach to leadership. I encourage you to learn from her on this.

More than a month has passed and you have issued no apology to me or the public for misleading them. Since you shared this video, reports have been coming in that the faked video is being distributed on neighbourhood WhatsApp groups across the country.

I no longer coach a rugby team, but I still lead a team of people, as do you. If we want a good country, we have a duty to lead by example. Players who make mistakes get a warning and yellow card in the hope that they can apologise and learn from their mistakes. It is only unrepentant cheaters who cannot obey the rules of the game, and those who commit serious transgressions, who should be issued with red cards.

You are a former journalist, but seem to have sadly lost respect for the truth. Nevertheless, I hope you find your way to apologise for this unethical action and issue a public notice to South Africans that the video that you shared about me is fake.

As you know, there is a host of legislation protecting South Africans from targeted harassment and the distribution of faked media, but expedient decency is preferable to drawn out lawfare.

I have been waiting for more than a month for your apology and would, with respect, request you finally do the right thing within the next week.

Kind regards,

Mr Peter de Villiers

A good and proud South African

Peter de Villiers is a former Springbok coach and GOOD mayoral candidate for the 2021 local government elections.

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