Former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has written an open letter to the chairperson of the Democratic Alliance (DA) Federal Executive, Helen Zille, demanding that she apologise for a fake video of him that she allegedly shared.
Zille allegedly shared the video just last month hours after De Villiers announced that he would stand as GOOD party’s mayoral candidate for the Drakenstein Municipality in the Western Cape.
De Villiers has given Zille a week to issue the apology.
Using a litany of sports metaphors in his open letter, De Villiers acknowledges that although he respects that he and Zille are on opposing teams, he still expects "all players to adhere to the rules", and that "undermining our democracy using a fake news campaign is beneath anyone of integrity".
"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 [Zille] have chosen that route.
"I have had a chance to review the evidence of the faked video… initially posted by Mr Nicholas Gotsell, the Head of the DA’s Federal Legal Commission and Compliance.
"[It] sadly demonstrates the level of ethics the DA is willing to comply with," De Villiers writes in the open letter.
His letter of demand comes after Zille, on 12 September, shared with her 253 000 Facebook and 1.4-million Twitter followers an edited video of De Villiers in which he is heard saying: "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 original version of the video arises from a 2019 endorsement of De Lille and GOOD in which De Villiers said: "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."
In his letter to Zille, De Villiers adds that he is not sure whether she "shared this faked video" herself, "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".
The former Springboks coach goes on to bemoan the fact that Zille is a former journalist, "but seem to have sadly lost respect for the truth".
"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.
He added, "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."
De Villiers added that the timing of the sharing of the video was malicious in that he had just announced that he would be standing as a mayoral candidate.
"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'," he said.
Zille has not, so far, responded to questions sent to her by News24 while DA national spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube said she was unaware of any open letter having been received by Zille or the party as she was currently busy on the DA's campaign trail.