In what has been described as a "season of madness", the official opposition patty, The Democtatic Alliance (DA,) has found itself embroiled in a messy scandal which it may find difficult to survive.
A German fugitive, Jurgen Harksen, has claimed that top officials of the DA solicited and received huge donations from his ill-gotten gains.
Harksen atrived in Cape Town eight years ago, fleeing German justice after swindling investors of millions of deutsche marks. Also hot on his heels were the tax authorities. There was no secret about the fact that he was an unsavoury character.
Setting camp in Cape Town, Harksen registered a company, Global Finance and proceeded to further swindle South Africans of an estimated R60m. He was in good company. He surrounded himself with expensive lawyers and hobnobbed with the cream of society.
When the German authorities publicly sought his extradition, they were frustrated at every turn by his lawyers until the die was cast this year. By then Harksen had made friends with the Western Cape premier of the time, Gerald Morkel, and his provincial finance minister, Leon Markovitz, who initially courted Harksen's friendship.
A commission of enquiry -- The Desai Commission -- was set up to probe the scandal. Harksen had said the DA duo asked him to help raise R4m for DA campaigns up to 2004, and that this would make him "friends" in the party.
"I expressed to myself that this is a very expensive friendship," said Harksen.
In the course of their friendship, Harksen was asked to donate money because the DA had an overdraft of R2.5m. When he agreed to donate "only" R250.000, it was requested that the amount be doubled. In January 2001, Harksen handed over DM105,000 (over R400,000) kept in a safe, later topped up to R500,000. Afterwards another R285,000 followed.
Then it was breakfast with the Premier Morkel at his official residence, followed by a string of braiis (barbecues), parties, smokes in Cuban cigar bars and meetings with top DA officials.
Minister of fundraising
"The friendship got deeper and deeper and more expensive," recalled Harksen. "At one stage, we had even joked that I would be appointed 'minister of fundraising' for the DA," he added
When Morkel decided to use code names because of his discomfiture over phone conversations, Harksen said to laughter: "I was very fortunate to get No. 1 and Mr Morkel No.2."
Harksen testified that he further paid part of Morkel's rent (after Morkel lost the premiership...