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29 Sep 2009 15:22
The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Tuesday called on former African National Congress (ANC) chief whip Nyami Booi to resign as a member of Parliament and parliamentary committee chairperson following his conviction for theft.
However, at the same time, the ANC came out strongly in Booi’s defence.
The last of the MPs charged with abusing parliamentary travel warrants, Booi on Monday pleaded guilty to theft.
He was fined R50 000, or five years’ jail, and was given until January 2014 to pay the money in monthly instalments of R1 000.
He was given an additional one-year jail term, conditionally suspended for five years.
The plea and sentence were in terms of an agreement with prosecutors finalised shortly before his appearance in the Cape Town Regional Court.
In the agreement Booi (49) admitted that although the travel warrants he received from Parliament were meant only for flights, he also used them for R92 000 worth of car rental and hotel accommodation worth R20 000.
The agreement recorded, however, that he had made “full restitution” to Parliament and that he had shown remorse.
“The publicity the case received in the media, has taken its toll of him,” according to the document.
On Tuesday DA deputy chief whip Mike Ellis welcomed Booi’s admission of “his indiscretion”.
“Mr Booi must now take responsibility for his actions and resign his chairmanship of the portfolio committee [on defence and military veterans] and as a Member of Parliament.
“He cannot continue in either position with this cloud hanging over his head,” he said.
Booi’s admission of guilt had a broader context. It came against a recent series of statements by President Jacob Zuma and the ministers in the presidency to increase accountability and stamp out corruption.
“Accountability counts for nothing if it is not accompanied by consequences.”
The public service and those elected to represent South African citizens should at all times uphold the law and fairly represent the faith that had been invested in them.
“Mr Booi can no longer, in good faith, do this,” Ellis said.
Ellis’s call was rejected by the ANC’s parliamentary caucus.
“Section 47 of the constitution outlines instances in which one ceases to be a Member of the National Assembly,” it said in a statement.
“One of those instances is if one is convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months’ imprisonment without the option of a fine.”
Booi had entered into a plea bargain and agreed with the state to settle for a fine.
“The call by the DA for his resignation therefore smacks of political opportunism.
“Caucus is satisfied by Booi’s show of remorse and his cooperation with the judiciary in reaching the agreement,” the ANC said.
Booi was the last of some 30 parliamentarians implicated in the so-called Travelgate affair to be convicted.
All the others entered into plea agreements, but Booi, who made his first court appearance in February 2005, had appeared determined to take on the state in a full trial.
Four travel agency bosses, including Soraya Beukes, whose agency served Booi, are still facing Travelgate charges.
Their case is set down to be heard in the Cape High Court in February next year.—Sapa
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