Mike Waters MP, Deputy Chief Whip of the Democratic Alliance
The DA is angered by the 19 June announcement by Parliament that a select number of parliamentary committees have been directed to “urgently probe” allegations of state capture and report back to the National Assembly. This is an ANC attempt to shield President Jacob Zuma and the executive from answering to serious State Capture evidence.
This half-baked “probe” has been introduced by the ANC in bad faith and without any effort to gain multi-party agreement.
It is especially exasperating considering the ongoing discussions taking place in the Chief Whips’ Forum around Parliament’s response to allegations of state capture and the “special meeting” of the Forum which is scheduled to discuss, among other things, the Public Protector’s State of Capture Report on Wednesday, 21 June.
The instruction, reportedly issued by House Chairperson of Committees, Cedric Frolick, for the chairpersons of the portfolio committees on Home Affairs, Mineral Resources, Public Enterprises and Transport to “ensure immediate engagement with the concerned Ministers to ensure that Parliament gets to the bottom of the allegations” is both disingenuous and an attempt at subterfuge. It is also unclear by what authority the Chairperson has issued this instruction as his authority is limited to “implement[ing] policy or guidelines on the scheduling and co-ordination of meetings of all committees”. Portfolio committees may initiate probes themselves or can be instructed to do so by the House; the Chairperson does not have that authority.
This proposal was never brought before the Chief Whips’ Forum for discussion and, as such, ignores the opinion of 12 parties representing millions of voters in Parliament.
Furthermore, the investigation into state capture cannot be narrowly reduced to those four portfolios and cannot be effectively carried out by “engaging” the concerned Ministers as several ministers are at the heart of the state capture allegations.
Indeed, this proposed course of action conveniently side-steps the most prominent member of the Executive, President Jacob Zuma, whose relationship with the Gupta family is the very nexus of the state capture allegations.
On Wednesday, 21 June, the DA will once again lobby support for our draft resolution into the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee on State Capture. This committee will be the only way in which Parliament will be able to hold the entire Executive to account, including the president and deputy ministers, and can easily conduct its business in concert with the relevant portfolio committees.
To illustrate, the Ad Hoc Committee on State Capture can begin its enquiry “into [the] undue influence by certain individuals over the executive in their exercise of executive authority” precisely as the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises begins its inquiry into Eskom, a process which is scheduled to commence on 21 June. The DA has consistently lobbied for portfolio committees to carry out inquiries into allegations of state capture, especially those actions targeting our state-owned entities (SOEs). However, recent allegations have shown that the tentacles of state capture extends well beyond a clutch of SOEs and certainly beyond the four committees tasked with carrying out this “Parliamentary probe”. The DA recognises the sterling work done by portfolio committees in the recent past, but we cannot afford “probes” that pass the blame to officials and let members of the Executive off the hook.
Consider the case of former Minister of Communications and current Minister of Public Service and Administration, Faith Muthambi: how will the proposed “probe” deal with the allegations that she sent confidential information on cabinet meetings to the Guptas? How will this “probe” deal with the well-ventilated accusations, also confirmed by then-Deputy Minister of Finance, Mcebisi Jonas, that the Guptas were aware and possibly influenced Cabinet appointments? The “probe” also conveniently glosses over key departments which have allegedly been targets of state capture in recent times, including the departments of Finance, Communications and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
Agreement was reached during last week’s Chief Whips’ Forum that Parliament should never again be found wanting, as was the case with the Nkandla debacle. However, instead of dealing decisively with the scourge of state capture, the ANC in Parliament are weaseling out by choosing to implement a damage containment strategy. This is the wrong choice to make and will once again leave Parliament exposed to accusations of failing to perform its effective oversight role.
The DA is undeterred and will continue to fight for the creation of an Ad Hoc Committee on State Capture.