A meeting which was delayed by almost an hour until there were enough Committee Members for a quorum, developed into a heated debate over the House Chairperson’s request for the Committee to conduct an investigation into allegations of “state capture” of organs of the State, some of which implicated the Minister of Mineral Resources. He wanted the Committee to report back to the National Assembly (NA) at the soonest opportunity, once the investigation was done.
After robust exchanges between the DA and ANC members, the issue was further exacerbated when Mr J Lorimer (DA) handed each Member a sealed envelope marked “Gupta emails.” Some ANC members argued that they had not been formally notified of these emails and other media reports on the issue, in terms of Committee and Parliamentary protocols. The proper source of Committee information was through the Chairperson.
The ANC Members said they wanted further clarity on exactly what the House Chairperson wanted the Committee to investigate and that a term of reference (TOR) was needed to help and guide members in the investigation. They felt there were already enough other investigations on this issue, and that the Committee was perhaps not best placed to conduct a full scale investigation. They also questioned the validity or appropriateness of the House Chairperson (rather than the Speaker) requesting the Committee to investigate this issue. They expressed criticism of the role of the media in the allegations of “state capture.”
The DA Members wanted the investigation to commence immediately, arguing that there was enough information at hand and that the letter from the House Chairperson was clear enough to guide the Committee. They said it seemed as if the other Committee members were stalling or attempting to evade investigation into “state capture.”
The Chairperson closed the discussion on the issue by proposing that a letter be drafted to the House Chairperson outlining the Committee’s options in response to the request in his letter, and asking for terms of reference to help and guide the Committee’s investigation. It would also request a meeting with the Minister of Mineral Resources and engage him on the allegations of “state capture.”
The Committee Content Advisor briefed Members on a revised Committee Operational Plan for 1017-2019. The main discussion point was the potential topics for investigation by the Committee, which would be done via colloquiums. A wide variety of topics were proposed, including women in mining, the coal strategy and the Mining Charter, but this would have to be reduced to about four to six key topics that the Committee would eventually discuss with stakeholders. Cost containment was a key consideration in hosting the colloquiums.
The last issue discussed was a letter from the Chamber of Mines of SA (CHAMSA), informing the Committee of its reasons for challenging the new Mining Charter in court. In essence, it felt it had not been consulted properly, that the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) had unilaterally developed the Charter and imposed it on the mining community without any meaningful engagement or consideration and inclusion of CHAMSA’s views. In the light of this, it had had no other option but to turn to the courts for legal redress, to suspend the Charter and take it on review.
Chairperson’s Opening Remarks
After a delayed start, the Chairperson opened the meeting by asking for suggestions from the four Committee Members present on how they would like to proceed with the meeting, as no decisions could be taken on any aspects discussed because there were insufficient Members for a quorum. The two DA Members suggested that perhaps the meeting should go ahead, as there were important matters to discuss. The Chairperson said that he agreed, but even adopting an agenda would not be possible because of the lack of a quorum.
At this stage, two ANC Members who were not members of the Portfolio Committee joined the meeting, although they were not formally introduced. As a quorum was now technically in place, the Chairperson suggested a change in the agenda. It would start with a discussion of the Committee Operational Plan, followed by the two letters addressed to the Committee -- one from the House Chairperson, and the other from the Chamber of Mines. He suggested that the third term programme be discussed at a later stage, and this was supported.
Committee Operational Plan (2017-2019): Briefing
Mr Nkosinathi Kweyama, the Committee Content Advisor, briefed the Committee on the revised Operational Plan. He highlighted the following key aspects:
- This was a revised plan, based on the original Committee Plan of 9 May 2017.
- As requested by Committee Members, this plan contained a wider range of possible topics for planned investigations by the Committee. Some examples suggested had been mine closures, barriers to entry for junior miners, implementation of the Mining Phakisa, oil and gas regulation, women in mining, coal strategy, the impact of mechanisation on jobs, shale gas, the Mining Charter challenge, and environmental compliance in mining. In total, the Content Advisor had identified about 21 possible suggestions that the Committee could investigate and if required, more could be added. He proposed that only about four to six topics should be finalised, as due to resource and time constraints, it was not possible to investigate all the suggestions.
- These investigations could take the form a colloquium, where a wide range of experts and participants would be invited (about 50 estimated).
- Containing costs would be crucial, and a costing model was included of around R27 250 per delegate for full costs (transport, accommodation and catering). Mr Kweyama said that in general, presenters paid for their own costs, hence the only costs for the Committee to consider were the actual catering costs of about R9 250, as this would have to funded by the Committee.
Mr J Lorimer (DA) wanted to know if there was any leeway on transport costs, as depending on the situation, the Committee may have to fund some travel costs of participants.
Nkosi Z Mandela commented that generally communities could look to their stakeholders, such as mining companies operating in their area, to fund their costs.
The Chairperson suggested that the issue be left until later, when more clarity was available on the details of the colloquium. The Committee would then be in a better position to decide on funding.
Letter from House Chairperson: “State Capture” allegations
The Chairperson read a letter from Mr Cedric Frolick, the House Chairperson, which had been sent to the Committee on 20 June 2017. The letter was not circulated to the general public attending the meeting.
In essence, the letter was a request for the Committee to investigate the various allegations in the media on the “state capture” of organs of the state, some implicating the Minister of Mineral Resources. He wanted the Committee to report back to the National Assembly (NA) at the soonest opportunity, once the investigation was done.
The Chairperson told Members that due to the time when the letter was received (just before the mid-year recess), he had acknowledged receipt of the letter and advised that the Committee would attend to the issue at its first meeting after the constituency period. In his response to the House Chairperson, he had also asked for terms of reference (TOR) to help and guide the Committee in its investigations.
Mr Lorimer asked if there had been any response from the House Chairperson on the TOR, and the Chairperson said there had not.
Mr Lorimer then suggested that the Committee should forge ahead and discuss the issue immediately, as the House Chairperson’s letter was quite clear, so a TOR was not necessary.
Mr Mandela agreed with the Chairperson that the Committee should wait until the TOR was in place, as he was not quite sure what the House Chairperson wanted the Committee to do. He further said that he was not sure what emails were being referred to, and what media was being referred to. As an example, he referred to the rural village of Mveso, in his constituency, where newspapers and other forms of media were not readily available. He was adamant that the Committee should not be seen to be chasing rumours, and had to rely on facts.
One of the “visiting” ANC members wanted to know how the investigation would relate to other investigations, such as those by the Hawks, other parliamentary bodies and the judiciary. He suggested that this investigation could be duplicating other efforts to get to the bottom of “state capture.” He raised a concern about the potentially high cost that could result from the Committee’s investigation, as a judicial style investigation would require additional resources. He added that “state capture” was being marred by politics and that the “hard facts” were being ignored. In his view, the Committee had limited options, and had to clarify the issue with the House Chairperson before commencing. He also wanted to know if the Speaker had been consulted, as ultimately the Committee reported to her and not the House Chairperson.
The second “visiting” ANC member said that any issue referred to the Committee for investigation could come only from the Speaker. She also felt that this investigation was unnecessary, as there was already a process under way to address the “state capture” allegations by the Judicial Committee and others.
Mr Lorimer said that if there was uncertainty about funding, Parliament could be approached to address this. He did not feel there was any problem with the Committee investigating the issue, as the House Chairperson was in his right to request the investigation in terms of Parliament’s oversight role on matters that impacted the country and the government. He was not sure why the Speaker had to be consulted on this.
At this stage, Mr Lorimer handed out sealed envelopes marked “GUPTA EMAILS” to Committee Members. He said that seeing some Committee Members had indicated they were not aware of, or could not access the information, he had taken the liberty of providing some information to Members.
This sparked a period of heated verbal sparring between the DA and ANC Committee Members - especially between Mr Mandela and Mr Lorimer.
The Chairperson said he took great exception to the manner in which Mr Lorimer had handed sealed envelopes out directly to Committee members, as this was not according to Parliamentary and Committee protocols. The correct approach would have been to approach the Chair with a request to hand out to the documents.
Mr Mandela commented that the handing out of the sealed envelopes was highly dubious and disrespectful of Committee Members. He requested that the sealed envelopes be returned to the author. The Committee had its own competent researchers and advisors, and they were the proper resources to gather information such as this. He suggested the Committee should follow the agreed agenda and finalise the response the House Chairperson on the TOR.
Mr I Pikinini (ANC) said that the Committee did not have enough information to deal with this issue. The Committee’s mandate was oversight, not investigations. In addition, it did not have the budget to conduct an investigation like this. The issue was already being dealt with by others like the Hawks, so this investigation was not necessary.
The second “visiting” ANC Committee member said that all correspondence to Committee Members had to come from or through the Chairperson. The envelopes handed out by Mr Lorimer had not been according to protocol and had to be ignored.
Adv H Schmidt (DA) was concerned that the suggestion of writing to the House Chairperson for further advice and a TOR could be seen as delaying tactics, rather than addressing the serious allegation of “state capture.” He felt the Committee had enough information to start the process and that the Committee had to respond to the House Chairperson, stating that it would start investigating the issue, including aspects like the veracity of media articles and statements, the Minister of Mineral Resources, mining companies, etc.
The second “visiting” ANC Committee member commented that the media was responsible for influencing people negatively. Parliament was not governed by the media, and could not be seen to react to media statements such as this. She felt this issue was merely a “witch-hunt” by the media, and not based on any facts. She supported the request that the Committee Chairperson write to the House Chairperson requesting more clarity.
The Chairperson responded that asking for a TOR and further clarity from the House Chairperson should not be seen as stalling the investigation or evading the issue of “state capture.” There was already broad agreement within the government that there had to be an investigation. All that was needed from the Committee’s perspective would be how to go about investigating the issue, hence the letter to the House Chairperson, as the feedback would make the Committee work easier.
He made the following proposal:
- that the Committee ask its own researcher to look at the issues raised in the letter and compile a report for Committee Members; and
- that the House Chairperson be approached on the TOR and for further clarity.
Mr Mandela commented that the letter from the House Chairperson mentioned numerous allegations in the media on “state capture”, but he was not sure which or what media were being referred to. No media house or newspaper had ever briefed the Committee or made submissions to the Committee on these allegations. As a result of all these uncertainties, the Committee needed further clarity from the House Chairperson before it could commence its investigative work.
Mr Lorimer commented that the Committee was being overly deferential to the Executive, and that all these suggestions were mainly spurious delaying tactics. It almost seemed as if there was already a preconceived idea to delay the investigation, rather than to reach agreement via discussions.
The Chairperson reminded Committee Members to be respectful when engaging one another, no matter how heated or controversial aspects were. He also felt that given the different views being raised on the letter to the House Chairperson, perhaps it would be better to summon the Minerals Resources Minister to a Committee meeting and engage him directly on the issues, rather than follow the investigating approach.
Adv Schmidt said that the investigation had to be in terms of Parliamentary and Committee rules and protocols. The Committee had to conduct its investigations first and only then could it call on the Minister for a response. The Committee investigation could not be equated to a judicial investigation - all that was needed was an investigation in terms of “Committee rules”
The Chairperson then closed the discussion on the issue by proposing that a letter be drafted to the House Chairperson outlining the Committee options in response to the request in his letter, and for his guidance on:
- option1 – request for a TOR to help and guide the Committee’s investigation;
- option 2 - request for a meeting with the Minister of Mineral Resources and engage him on the allegations of “state capture.”
Letter from Chamber of Mines: Mining Charter of South Africa (CHAMSA)
The Chairperson read a letter dated 15 June 2017, addressed to the Committee, from Mr Mxolisi Mgojo, President of the Chamber of Mines of South Africa (CHAMSA). Copies were not made available to the general public attending the meeting.
In essence, the letter informed the Committee of the actions CHAMSA were taking in response to the new Mining Charter published recently by the Department of Minerals and Energy (DMR).
CHAMSA’s letter said that it fully supported the government’s transformation agenda. Its members had made great strides to address transformation in the mining industry and further progress was being made to ensure that the industry was compliant.
The Chamber had been forced to seek legal redress to interdict or suspend the new Charter and take it on review. There had been no other option available to CHAMSA, as it felt the new Charter had been unilaterally imposed on the industry without proper consultation. It felt that the DMR had dealt only with selected stakeholders and that it had had no input or meaningful engagement with the DMR since April 2016 when it had submitted its comments on the draft Charter.
There was no Committee discussion on the issue, as there was agreement that the Committee was merely being informed by CHAMSA on its actions, and the issue was now being addressed in the courts.
The adoption of the Committee meeting minutes was postponed to the next meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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