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20 Feb 2003 08:30
The National Assembly is likely to take action against former African National Congress (ANC) chief whip Tony Yengeni for lying to Parliament when he made a special statement proclaiming his innocence to the House on March 28 last year.
This is in addition to an inquiry by Parliament’s ethics committee into his failure to disclose—in the register of members’ interests—a discount of almost 50% on a luxury 4x4 vehicle from a company involved in the arms deal.
The inquiry was suspended pending the outcome of his trial and National Assembly Speaker Dr Frene Ginwala has called for it to be re-opened.
Yengeni was convicted of fraud last week after pleading guilty in terms of a plea agreement with the state. He was, in return, acquitted of corruption.
He will be sentenced on March 17.
The action by the House has been informally discussed by party political whips in Parliament and will apparently be on the agenda at Wednesday’s Chief Whips Forum.
It is understood there is no committee or mechanism in Parliament in which action can be taken against an MP who misleads the House in the way Yengeni did last year.
It is therefore up to the House as a body to do so, and it has been mooted that ANC chief whip Nathi Nhleko will censure Yengeni by way of a resolution.
The wording of the resolution and whether a debate should be allowed will be hammered out at Wednesday’s meeting.
Yengeni told the Assembly: “Its acquisition does not in any way amount to a gift or a donation and therefore there was no interest to be declared.”
The ANC national working committee is expected to decide Yengeni’s future in Parliament next week, amid calls for him to resign or be fired by his party.
It is also understood that Parliament will soon move against ANC MP Winnie Madikizela-Mandela soon, despite her lawsuit.
She is expected to be called before the House to be severely reprimanded by Dr Frene Ginwala and will have her salary docked by R12 500 in line with last year’s National Assembly endorsement of a recommendation by the ethics committee.
The committee found Madikizela-Mandela guilty of contravening Parliament’s code of conduct, in that she failed to disclose donations of R50 000 a month to supplement her monthly income, as well as her financial interests, in the Winnie Mandela Family Museum.
She is the first MP to be found guilty under the code. This states that members must disclose all gifts, hospitality, sponsorships and benefits valued at more than R350, as well as shares and financial interests in companies and other corporate entities.
Madikizela-Mandela failed to turn up at any of the committee’s hearings, which were held behind closed doors by a multi-party investigating panel. Among the reasons given, but not accepted by the committee, was that she was sick.
Her lawyers say her constitutional rights were violated and that she was not given the opportunity to present her side of the story and have lodged papers in the Cape High Court.
Yengeni’s conviction for fraud was not a small matter, the Azanian Peoples’ Organisation said on Wednesday.
“His fraudulent conduct is not only an embarrassment to the ruling party, but also to Parliament itself,” representative Nkutoeu Motsau said.
Yengeni had tainted the integrity of the highest institution in the land and could not be let off lightly. Referring to Yengeni’s former position as chief whip of the majority party, Motsau said: “It is painful to accept that this huge majority in parliament was lead by a fraudster with insatiable tastes.
“Tony Yengeni has proven himself to be an utterly unpardonable crook. He lied to the people. He treated parliament with contempt. He abused the privilege and power bestowed upon him.”
Azapo wanted the severest punishment for Yengeni both by the ruling party and Parliament, Motsau said. - Sapa
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