Speech in Parliament by the Chief Whip of the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen MP, during the debate on The scourge of State Capture
28 November 2017
The Gupta Gang of Six
If ever there was a reason for this house to be having this debate today it was confirmed in glorious Technicolor yesterday evening. Watching the clip from Gupta TV of the gang of 6 ANC MPs defending state capture and tearing viciously into their own Chief Whip and their colleagues on the Public Enterprises Committee and threatening that this debate would not go ahead proved why this debate today is so essential. I think that we should start, as the honourable Gordhan has said before: “join the dots” .
When you do that you do have to ask; whose interests these members are serving? Certainly not the people of South Africa, certainly not our democracy’s and definitely not this Parliament’s. It was nothing more than a poorly executed dance of subservience to the Gupta masters who are no doubt carefully choreographing this charade from the confines of their Saxonwold Shebeen.
Headlining this sordid spectacle was none other than Mr. Loyiso Mpumlwana. Members may remember him, because apart from last night’s performance, he also had some other headline performances:
– sacked by the TRC in 2009 for fraudulent misrepresentation;
– withdrawn as a candidate for the Human Rights Commission; and
– more recently, defended Grace Mugabe by saying that it was acceptable for her to beat up a young woman in his culture. With this past, his convoluted jargon last night and his weird legal interpretation, I wouldn’t have the good advocate represent me in an uncontested divorce!
Public trust in our institution
Just last week, the High Level Panel, headed by former President Kgalema Motlanthe, released its report. It’s a fascinating document which should be compulsory reading for every member. It is an indictment on the failures of this house and a major wake up call for all of us. The panel calls on us for much more effective oversight of the executive and for a more activist Parliament not simply a rubber stamp processing the work of the executive.
But perhaps most worrying, and something which should concern every member off this house, is the section dealing with trust in institutions. Public trust in Parliament declined massively from 65% in 2009 to just 38% in 2015. And the question we have to ask ourselves is why? Well when you begin to “join the dots’ it’s easy to see: in 2009 Mr. Zuma was elected as the President and set about turning this Parliament into his poodle and adding it to his growing collection of captured institutions.
Since then we have experienced the SABC crisis, the mining crisis, Visagate, Nkandlagate, Nenegate, Sassagate, and at each step of the way this house has rolled over and simply allowed the executive to ride roughshod over it. Attempts to hold the executive accountable have been thwarted by ministers who don’t appear, don’t answer questions and don’t feel they are accountable to Parliament, choosing overseas trips over their constitutional obligations to account.
Let’s not forget that it was this very Parliament that, without calling him to account before a single committee, shamefully absolved the President of any wrongdoing on Nkandla. It was up to the Constitutional Court to do our job for us and hold the President accountable.
And it’s not like this house has learnt a single thing from it: just last week at this podium the President, on one of his paltry four visits a year, was able to get away without answering a straightforward question that was on the order paper and that he had for over two weeks. Where was the sanction from the Deputy Speaker? Where was the accountability?
Because you see the executive are aided and abetted in this by presiding officers who see their role as one to protect the executive rather than to protect the members of this house as they discharge their oversight and accountability role. Last night the Speaker was on Radio 702 waxing lyrical about the President’s dignity – dignity? When is the Speaker going to start standing up for the dignity of this house which has been systematically abused by an executive and Presidency that have gone rogue.
It’s little wonder that the people, as the high level panel report affirms, are losing faith with this house as it continues to break its covenant to serve the people’s interests and instead serves the executive.
Despite all this, I don’t think that anything could have prepared us for the revelations that emerged through the Gupta leaks. Finally the vast network was laid bare for all to see, the tentacles of influence, subversion and deceit extending from Saxonwold through the union buildings, into government departments, through them into our state owned enterprises and deeper still into our provincial and local governments.
Flurries of emails, databases and communications exposed each terrible tentacle sucking up opportunity and huge sums of public money, away from its intended purposes and into the pockets of the Guptas, the Essas, the Ngubanes, the Hlongwanas and the Zumas. While the people of the Vrede Dairy project languish in abject poverty the money intended for them was used to pay for a wicked wedding, for champagne and caviar which these obscenely rich individuals and families quaffed back, all the while laughing whilst the poor suffer.
Parliament’s response: The case of the Curates egg
And what was this house’s response to the daily barrage of revelations of captured ministers, put in place as we read in the shocking revelations in the book “Enemy of the People” not to be faithful to the Republic as they swore in their oath, but rather to be faithful to the interests of the Gupta family?
Well, a whole six months ago the House Chairperson wrote to the chairs of four portfolio committees, Home Affairs, Public Enterprises, Transport and Minerals & Energy instructing them to “urgently probe the allegations”
Rather like the curates egg, the response has been excellent in parts but bad in others.
Only the Public Enterprises Committee seems to have acted with any urgency in dealing with this matter and not without significant resistance from many on these benches. Members of all parties on this committee must be complimented on their bravery, work and dedication to date in difficult circumstances. They have been relentlessly attacked by members of the executive hell-bent on ensuring that the truth does not come out. And as late as yesterday evening by their own six colleagues.
The truth is though that they still have a long way to go, they have dealt with Eskom only, they still haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on Transnet and Denel where even further indications of the rot of state capture reside.
But what has happened outside this committee?
The Home Affairs chairperson has done everything he can to thwart efforts by members to conduct a probe into the Home Affairs related aspects of State Capture. To date former Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has not once, been called to explain why he used executive privileges to grant citizenship to Gupta family members when the original sponsor and applicant, did not compete the process?
– What progress has the Transport Committee made in dealing with allegations?
– The Minerals and Energy Committee is being led a merry dance of evasion and obfuscation by one of the chief protagonists in this sage, Minister Mosebenzi Zwane.
– And what too about the revelations that fall outside these committees are we simply going to ignore the revelations that have emerged around South African Airways and the Gupta involvement there in trying to snaffle the lucrative Mumbai route.
– Why has the State of Capture report by the Public Protector not been referred to a single committee?
– What too about the revelations that the Guptas were provided with a secret cabinet memorandum by a former Communications Minister?
– Why has Minister Des Van Rooyen not been called to explain what happened in the 4 short days he was the Finance Minister
– And most importantly why has the President not appeared before a single committee of this house to account for a single one of the serious allegations?
The struggle against state capture starts in Parliament
There are some today, like the gang of six last night, who will no doubt argue that it is not this houses responsibility to investigate and hold the executive accountable.
They will argue that the proposed judicial commission of enquiry should do this (funny though that it is the very same people who, when the opposition beats them in court, argue repeatedly that the judiciary shouldn’t do Parliaments work)
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Constitution of the Republic makes it clear:
– section 42(3) “scrutinising and overseeing executive action”
– Section 55(2) “ the National Assembly must maintain oversight of the exercise of national authority….and any organ of state”
And this was confirmed by the Chief Justice Moegeng in the Nkandla judgement : “ Scrutinise means subject to scrutiny. And scrutiny implies a careful and thorough examination or a penetrating or searching reflection”
This Parliament is mandated by the Constitution to do the job that is required to get to the bottom of the scourge of sate capture.
It is provided with all the tools both constitutionally and within our rules to perform the functions that it needs to in holding the executive accountable.
And, it is obliged to do the job because as the peoples parliament it has the duty to act in the interest of the people of South Africa.
Because, in the final analysis, if we don’t act who will?
One can only wonder if the situation would have actually got so bad and run so deep if the Scorpions had not been shut down in an act of complete political treachery led by Mr. Yunis Carrim, who now tries to shamelessly re-style himself as the political sands have shifted, as a champion of justice. Thanks to him and his underhand efforts at the time we are now bequeathed the moribund Hawks, who do not leave their perch unless it’s to pick on an identified enemy of the State Capture brigade.
It’s unlikely that the NPA are going to come to our rescue, they have been so captured that in this whole year of damning revelations, so much time has elapsed since the revelations first came to light that three books have been published, yet not a single page criminal indictment has been written or investigation concluded. The NPA seem to spend more time arguing why accused persons should NOT be charged than building cases against criminals. The lights may be on at the NPA, but clearly nobody is home, they too don’t leave the office unless it’s to pick on an identified enemy of the State Capture brigade.
It’s even more unlikely that the State Security Agency, which should be guarding the sovereignty of our state are going to come to our rescue. They too have been so captured that they are used as a tool to protect and entrench the very people responsible for state capture and pose the biggest risk to its sovereignty. Events of the last year show clearly that they only act to smear and undermine with trumped up “intelligence reports” any identified enemy of the Sate Capture brigade.
And SARS is also not going to help, their systematic capture has led to a situation where good stewards of public finances have been pushed out and replaced with the very allies of the State Capture crew. Their transgressions? Going hard after those people who themselves are the perpetrators of State Capture, The Guptas body refunds, Edward Zuma’s illegal cigarette enterprises and Khulubuse Zuma’s asset stripping and fraud. Tom Moyane’s SARS is not interested in pursuing anybody outside of identified enemies of the State Capture brigade.
And it’s certainly not going to helped by the keyboard warriors and twitter activists that currently occupy the ANC benches. Those members like Mr. Derek Hanekom and many others who were or are still part of the cabinet and have been for the past 8 years, serving President Zuma slavishly and loyally and who now feign surprise at the scourge of State Capture as though they didn’t know what was going on under their very noses and around the cabinet table. They turned a blind eye for years and now try to reshape themselves as pillars of virtue.
There is no charge office on Twitter, there is no such thing as a Facebook arrest and no courts of law operate on Instagram. If we want to do something then this house must do its job, every member I this house must do their job and act without fear and favor and ensure that those responsible are held fully accountable.
This house cannot be one of the “Presidents Keepers” or become an “Enemy of the People”
Refusing to act on State Capture, denying the duty of this Parliament to exercise oversight and accountability over the President and his cabinet and turning a blind eye to the wrongdoing that has been going on and defending those who have looted the resources and opportunity of our country will be the grossest dereliction of duty and history will judge this house harshly.