/ 19 June 2019

Dubious comrades sent by the ANC to head parliamentary committees

Prominent politicians in Jacob Zuma’s administration have made spectacular returns to Parliament.
Prominent politicians in Jacob Zuma’s administration have made spectacular returns to Parliament. (David Harrison/M&G)

Prominent politicians in Jacob Zuma’s administration have made spectacular returns to Parliament, as the ANC announced who it will be nominating as chairpersons and whips in important parliamentary portfolio committees.

Former Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson returns to Parliament as chairperson of the police committee, with former deputy defence minister Kebby Maphatsoe holding the position of committee whip.

Joemat-Pettersson was reshuffled out of Zuma’s Cabinet in March 2017 after the Central Energy Fund’s strategic oil stocks were sold off on her watch.

In December 2015, the Strategic Fuel Fund sold 10.3-million barrels at of the country’s oil reserves for less than the going market rate without permission from the national treasury. By law, the fund must hold sufficient oil reserves to last the country for up to 21 days, equivalent to what was sold.

The deal came to light in 2016. Joemat-Pettersson told Parliament that it was not a sale but a rotation. She was fired as energy minister in 2017 and replaced by Mmamoloko Kubayi, who said it was an illegal sale because proper procurement processes were not followed, nor was treasury approval sought.

Former Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, who is also a former transport minister, will be nominated by the ANC as chairperson of the transport committee.

Zwane has, alongside ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, been implicated in the Vrede Dairy saga.

He was Agriculture MEC in the Free State province at the time of the project.

Money was allegedly diverted from an agriculture project meant to benefit emerging farmers into the coffers of the Gupta family for a lavish wedding at Sun City.

Zwane also fell foul of Parliament and Cabinet colleagues when he misrepresented a cabinet resolution, in which he called for a judicial inquiry into South African’s banking system. This happened after Gupta bank accounts were closed.

Supra Mahumapelo, a former premier of the North West, also makes a striking return to the political forefront as chairperson of the portfolio committee on tourism.

Mahumapelo, once a member of the so-called ‘premier league’, was stripped of the premiership and the province was placed under administration by the national government. A parliamentary probe was called to investigate alleged corruption and mismanagement in the province.

Faith Muthambi is another former Cabinet minister who returns to parliamentary politics as the new committee chairperson of cooperative governance and traditional affairs.

She is seen as a staunch supporter of former president Jacob Zuma, and has also been caught up in allegations of impropriety. The former communications minister intentionally tried to destabilise government communication and information systems (GCIS). This is according to testimony given before the state capture inquiry by the deputy director-general acting of the department, Phumla Williams, in September 2018.

Former State Security Minister Bongani Bongo will be the new chairperson of the home affairs committee.

In November last year, Bongo wanted to take the Speaker of Parliament to court over allegations that he attempted to bribe the evidence leader in the parliamentary inquiry into state capture of state-owned entities last year.

The former minister was implicated by evidence leader advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara in an affidavit submitted to then speaker Baleka Mbete, in which he claimed that Bongo had attempted to bribe him with a “blank cheque” in order to derail the inquiry by the ethics subcommittee.

Bongo, who faces another investigation of fraud and corruption by the Hawks, said that the bribery allegations were a “plot” to tarnish his name and that Parliament and the Hawks are deliberately dragging their feet in concluding their respective investigations.

The ANC’s chief whip Pemmy Majodina says Bongo’s case is still with Parliament’s ethics committee and the former minister has approached the courts to expedite the matter.

Majodina has called on the new ethics committee to release the report into Bongo’s matter so that there is clarity.

On issues surrounding questionable MPs on the ANC’s nominations list, the chief whip says they have been adequately vetted and okayed by the party’s integrity committee.

“There have been allegations on certain members. There was a process where they appeared before the integrity commission and they were cleared. If there’s any other matter that may be viewed as members doing things against the law, that can’t hold us back because we believe in innocence before proven guilty,” Majodina said.

This was echoed by ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, who was in Cape Town to announce the proposed list of committee chairpersons to the ANC caucus. “They appeared before the integrity committee, and the committee did not find them guilty of anything… Allow natural justice to takes its course.”

The ANC also announced appointees to senior positions in the National Assembly.

Cedric Frolick returns as Chair of Chairs, a position in charge of oversight of the executive and government entities. He replaces the ANC’s first choice, Nomvula Mokonyane, who declined to take up her position as an MP.

Frolick is himself embroiled in controversy.

In March, during his testimony before the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi claimed that Frolick helped Bosasa “break the ice” with the then chair of Parliament’s correctional services portfolio committee, Vincent Smith.

Agrizzi further alleged that Frolick, at the behest of Bosasa chief executive Gavin Watson, was paid R40 000 a month by Bosasa for his co-operation.

According to Agrizzi, Frolick was an old friend of the politically connected Watson family. Agrizzi told the commission that Frolick was asked by Watson to resolve the impasse between Bosasa and Smith, who at the time was “very anti-Bosasa”.

The ANC did not announce who it would be asking to chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), Parliament’s public accounting watchdog.

It did however say that it was in discussion with an opposition party to take up the chairpersonship, as is tradition in Parliament.

Here is the full list:

Signed ANC Committee Nominee List — June 19 2019 by Mail and Guardian on Scribd