Mmusi Maimane. Picture: THE TIMES/ALON SKUY
Mmusi Maimane. Picture: THE TIMES/ALON SKUY

In an ironic twist of fate, Mmusi Maimane, who outed President Cyril Ramaphosa on the Bosasa funding deal, has found himself entangled in a campaign car deal with the controversial former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste.

Maimane raised the president’s ties to Bosasa in parliament and then lodged a formal complaint with the public protector.

On Sunday, Maimane said reports that he continued to use the car, a white Toyota Fortuner, are part of a “smear campaign”.

“The smear campaign continues. These are gutless individuals who will not be named and instead spread lies about me and my family. I have always sought to build a SA for all. I remain committed to that vision, regardless of how uncomfortable it may make others feel,” Maimane said in a tweet on Sunday.

The funding of politicians and political parties has been under scrutiny since the release of public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report on Ramaphosa’s ANC presidential campaign donation from controversial facilities management company Bosasa.

Recently, the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) held public hearings on the promulgated Political Party Funding Act, which bans donations from foreign sources and requires parties to disclose all donations of more than R100,000.

Under pressure

The enactment of the law — seen as one of the most important ones since the constitution was passed — comes amid explosive revelations at the state capture inquiry detailing the extent of corruption within the government and how politically connected private companies scored multibillion-rand state contracts.

There is growing speculation that there is a campaign within the DA to oust Maimane who is under pressure after the party’s poor showing in the May general elections.  

Reports emerged on Sunday that the leader of the official opposition party continued using the vehicle despite being warned by party colleagues about potential damage to the DA’s reputation.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane raised eyebrows on social media after allegations that he drove a Steinhoff-sponsored SUV, despite being warned not to.The claims were published in Rapport. The paper said the car was given to Maimane during the 2016 elections by Markus Jooste, former CEO of Steinhoff. Rapport claimed that after alleged irregularities at Steinhoff came to light, the car was returned.

This followed the accounting scandal that rocked Steinhoff in December 2017. The Hawks are investigating various matters regarding Steinhoff involving fraud, misrepresentation and the loss of billions of rand for investors. At the centre of the saga is Jooste, one of the senior executives who was at the helm of the retailer before its collapse in 2017.

Late in 2018, Jooste told parliamentarians that he was not aware of any financial irregularities on the day he resigned. Separate investigations by PwC have uncovered the overstatement of income and assets at the retailer.

DA spokesperson Solly Malatsi confirmed on Sunday that Steinhoff previously assisted the party with campaigning in the Western Cape.

“As a matter of policy, we never disclose donors or the nature of their donations. This is because many donors have a reasonable apprehension that they will be disadvantaged in their dealings with the state if it were known that they donated to an opposition party,” Malatsi said.

“However, because it is clear that the questions are misinformed, we have decided to make an exception in this particular case.”

Limited period

Malatsi said the DA received a donation in the form of the use of a vehicle for a limited period, to assist with campaigning in the Western Cape and to help Maimane with the execution of his duties.

“The party at no stage took ownership of this vehicle. Its use was facilitated through a car hire company. The cost thereof was borne by Steinhoff,” he said.

Malatsi said that when the revelations about Steinhoff surfaced, the party thought it appropriate in the circumstances to return the vehicle, which it did.

The report about the Steinhoff donation comes a week after it emerged that Maimane was renting a house worth nearly R4m in an upmarket Cape Town suburb, despite initially listing the property as an asset on the parliamentary registry.   

The house was bought by a shelf company, owned by Durban Wessel Jacobs, who purchased the house for R3.85m in September 2017.

The Sunday Times reported that Maimane was recently confronted at a heated meeting of the party’s federal executive over the property and whether he was paying for it himself.

He said earlier in September that he had moved from the parliamentary village in Cape Town to the rented house because he and his family were receiving death threats.