Parliament failed former MP Tony Yengeni.
So believes National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise, who on Tuesday addressed a workshop by the joint committee on ethics and members’ interests in Parliament.
Talking to members of Parliament about declaring their interests, Modise said Yengeni was not adequately guided on the implications of not declaring the discount offered on his luxury car.
Yengeni was convicted of fraud and sentenced to four years in jail in 2006 after accepting a discount on a Mercedes-Benz, while a member of Parliament’s defence committee, offered by a company involved in the arms deal.
The former Umkhonto weSizwe member served four months in jail before he was released. He has been in and out of court houses since then on different charges, including drunk driving.
Modise questioned whether there could have been something else that could have been done to ensure that Yengeni understood the gravity of the situation in not properly declaring the discount and therefore violating the rules.
“But how do you then look at a member who has not declared and is given a chance to do so, declares and is not called a fraudster today but Tony Yengeni is called a fraudster out there in the streets?”
At the time, Yengeni said he was a victim of an unfortunate travesty of justice.
MPs have to declare their shares and financial interests, payment from employment outside Parliament, directorships and partnerships, consultancies, sponsorships, gifts and hospitality, benefits, foreign travel paid for by outside sources, ownership of land and property and pensions.
They are also required to disclose all gifts of more than R1 500 as well as gifts from a single source that cumulatively go over R1 500 in one calendar year.
Modise said the systems of Parliament must always be consistent.
“If you are going to give me the chance to correct, then give the other Tony Yengeni’s a chance to correct,” she said at the workshop, which is about initiating a national dialogue on ethical standards for elected public officials and to discuss issues around the implementation of the systems.
The deadline for declaring interests has been extended this year, and the MPs interests are expected to be released later this year.