Public Protector’s Report: deliberations

Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

10 June 2004
Public Protector’s Report: Deliberations

Mr I Vadi (ANC)

handed out
Public Protector Report on NPA

The Committee met for the second time and almost immediately got immersed in a long discussion on the relevance of certain documents requested by opposition parties. The contentious background documents mentioned in Mushwana’s report included, among others, correspondence pertaining to the Joint Investigation Team's probe into the national arms deal and 35 questions posed to Mr Zuma by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) that were leaked to the Sunday Times newspaper.

Some Members, including Raenette Taljaard and Sheila Camerer of the Democratic Alliance, Patricia de Lille of the Independent Democrats, Malezole Diko of the United Democratic Movement and Koos van der Merwe of the Inkatha Freedom Party, argued the relevance of these documents and wanted them made available. However, African National Congress Members and the New National Party argued that they were already in the public domain and it was unnecessary to place them before the Committee officially.

Carol Johnson of the NNP and Annelize van Wyk of the ANC, among others, warned against the Committee overstepping its mandate. The Committee's task was not to re-open Mushwana's investigation, but simply to consider his report, and accept or reject the recommendations.

The Chair suggested that the Committee go through the Public Protector’s Report paragraph by paragraph to ensure thoroughness and then start discussions.

Ms De Lille (ID) asked the Chair to indicate the way forward. She wanted to know whether Members would be allowed to source additional items.

The Chair suggested that it would be better to first go through the report before a decision was taken on the need for additional material.

Mr Baloyi (ANC) fully agreed and pointed out that Members would decide as a Committee - and not as individuals - when it would be necessary to call for additional documentation to clarify certain issues. This position did not preclude individual Members from seeking other information for their own use.

Ms Taljaard (DA) said that the position taken by the Chair raised fundamental practical difficulties. It would be useful to call for all documents that would assist Members execute the task before them more efficiently.

Ms Van Wyk (ANC) cautioned Members against revisiting an issue that was exhaustively discussed in the previous meeting. The whole Committee would have to be convinced of the necessity of additional documentation. Ms Mentor (ANC) agreed.

Ms Tobias (ANC) said that should the need arise for support documentation in the process of going through the report, then Members would be entitled to raise the issue. Mr Diko (UDM) concurred.

Ms De Lille asked the Chair to establish the mechanisms for Members to seek additional documentation when the need arise. Her party was prepared to give the process a chance on this basis.

Mr Godi (PAC) asked Members to refrain from dealing with side issues and proposed that the meeting move forward.

The Chair asked Members to look at the report. He suggested that the Committee ignore the introductory part and move straight to the main report at page 14.

Ms Camerer suggested that the Committee go through the Executive Summary first to gain perspective.

Ms Johnston (NNP) disagreed and said that going through the Executive Summary would be an improper move that would lead Members to form preconceptions about the full content.

The Chair ruled that the Committee would go through the report and then come back to discuss arising issues. Chapter Two was background and not critical, so could be flagged.

Ms Taljaard said that her Party would request for the following documents in regard to the background material: the letter to the Deputy President, response by the previous Speaker Ms Frene Ginwala to the letter and response to the Speaker’s letter by the Deputy President.

Ms Mentor said that the Committee would be investigating a finished process if the request by the DA was allowed. There is no need for this.

Ms Camerer said that the build-up to the issue required that important background material. It would indicate how the Director of Public Prosecution got into this fray. They were relevant and not voluminous.

Mr Godi reiterated that the key question before the Committee was the product of an investigation. It was important for Members not to lose sight of this.

Mr Masutha (ANC) agreed with the Chair that this was merely background material and thus the Public Protector had not raised these matters in his investigation. Parliament had already placed the arms deal report in the public domain. Members wishing to access these documents could do so on their own volition. The Chair agreed.

Mr Godi said Members would have time to make submissions at the end of the deliberations on the report. Issues relating to documents surrounding the investigation process were peripheral matters, which should not unnecessarily detain the Committee. Mr Sibanyoni (ANC) and Mr Baloyi were of the view that Members’ choice of reading should not be the concern of the Committee at this stage. The Chair reiterated his earlier ruling and said Members were free to use the services of parliamentary researchers to access this information.

Ms Camerer referred to the newspaper reports on the 35 questions raised by the Deputy President and cautioned the Committee against relying on secondary sources. She called for original documents.

Ms Van Wyk countered that she did not see the relevance of these 35 questions as they did not form part of the complaint by the Deputy President. Ms Mentor agreed that the questions should be disregarded.

Ms Tobias suggested that the Committee flag contentious issues so they could first run through the entire report.

Mr Masutha noted concurrence with Ms Van Wyk that the subject matter of the complaint was the publication in the media and not the 35 questions. Anything else was outside the mandate of the Committee. It would be best to flag the issue.

Mr Diko disagreed with the ANC position and thought it essential that the Committee to get the original copy of the 35 questions and not the newspaper reports.

Ms De Lille insisted that the Committee establish a proper procedure for getting additional documents in order to speed up the process.

Mr Camerer reiterated that indeed the Committee should get the original script of the 35 questions. It was a germane issue whether the DPP position was justified and whether these questions were indeed given.

Mr Baloyi said that the matter of publication rather than the content of the documents was the main issue.

Ms Taljaard said that the availability of these documents would help the Committee track the timelines and the sequence of events that unfolded in order to decide whether there was some substance in the complaint by the Deputy President.

Ms Tobias asked Members not to let the issue of the 35 questions detract the Committee from the salient matters of the discussion.

The Chair said that individual Members should be able to work out the sequence of events and the pattern of leakages that led to the investigation. The 35 questions are already in the public domain and Members should be in a position to apply their mind on what impact these questions have on the task at hand.

Ms De Lille suggested that the Committee vote on contested matters in order to move forward and save time.

The Chair said he was reluctant to go the “voting route”. This was a sensitive matter and the process could lose credibility.

Mr Van de Merwe (IFP) said he would request the document relating to the 35 questions. These documents would assist him to determine whether the DPP indeed had a prima facie case against the Deputy President.

The Chair ruled that the media statements should be flagged for discussion later.

Ms Camerer said it was difficult for everyone to take a position on a document not before the Committee.

Ms De Lille wanted to know whether the correspondence between the Public Protector and the DPP was relevant to this discussion and whether these documents would be made available to the Committee. It would take the assistance of the Committee Section to get hold of these documents.

Mr Diko pointed out that Members should not confine their attention to the 35 questions only. It was also important to consider the manner in which the DPP had treated the Public Protector. The report was not only about publication but also the possible abuse of office. It also helped to determine whether indeed the DPP had a prima facie case against the Deputy President.

Mr Sibanyoni said it would be prudent for Members to start with the complaint. At present the Committee was only dealing with background issues.

Ms Mentor said that if it would help the process, the issue of the 35 questions should be flagged. It seemed Members had deviated from the Deputy President’s main complaint. The Chair agreed that the issue should be flagged.

Mr Van de Merwe said that the need for more information arose from the need to determine, for instance, whether the DPP might prosecute the Deputy President in the future.

Ms Van Wyk expressed worry that some Members had come into the meeting with preconceived ideas. There was need to find a common ground on their mandate. Ms Tobias said the Committee’s mandate was to consider the Public Protector’s report and not material outside the report. The issue should be flagged if that was the feeling of the majority.

Ms Johnson said that it was not for the Committee to decide whether the DPP had a prima facie case against the Deputy President. That would be going outside the mandate of the Committee.

Ms De Lille once again called on Members to establish the process to avoid the reigning confusion. This Committee should not be turned into a court where issues of prima facie are touted with reckless abandon. Ms Mentor agreed.

Mr Godi said that paragraph 2.5 should be flagged as it was at the heart of the complaint.

The Chair referred to paragraph 2.6 and said that there was no need for all the press statements. With the concurrence of Members, the following paragraphs were flagged for further deliberations: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. The Chair then tabled a letter the DPP had addressed to the Committee requesting audience to reply to issues raised by the Public Protector. The Chair said he would reply that there was no need for him to appear before the Committee at this stage. The Committee would, after deliberating on the report, decide whether it was necessary. Mr Baloyi and Ms Van Wyk agreed.

The meeting was adjourned.


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