The Committee invited the Minister to speak on the state of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. The Minister addressed the drought, Phase 2 of the Back to Basics programme and media allegations about his relationship with Mohamed Bobat, Trillian and Regiments Capital and a one-day trip to Dubai.
Minister Des van Rooyen addressed the drought, saying that the Western, Northern, as well as the Eastern Cape, were crippled, or affected adversely by the drought. All three provinces had declared themselves disaster areas as provided in the legislation. The drought conditions were having profound negative implications on the economies of the affected provinces which affected the remaining parts of the country, at different levels. There were pockets of drought in other provinces which attested to the need for a sustained strategy to ensure the management of drought and other hazards, given that the country was regarded as one of the driest countries in the world and was suffering the effects of climate change, a factor that was not going to change. The effect of the current drought could be seen in both the economic, social and environmental dimensions. In the Western Cape, the agricultural sector, amongst others, had reported a major decline in performance as a result of drought. A number of measures had been implemented and were bearing fruit.
The Minister referred to the media report about the utilisation of close to half a billion rand just for communication about the drought by the Western Cape government. Also of concern to the Minister, was the report that only 24% of the R74.8 million allocated to the Western Cape to deal with immediate issues to improve the lives of people on the ground, had been utilised six months down the line.
The Inter-Ministerial Task Team on Drought would meet that afternoon to consider the technical submission on whether to agree to the request of the three provinces to declare a national disaster. Doing so would mean that the Department had to babysit those three provinces until the situation was brought under control.
Members noted that there had been a serious drought in the country since February 2016 and the Minister had ignored calls to declare it a national disaster. The reference to half billion rand expenditure on communication was queried as no provincial government had that amount of money to spend on such items. It was more likely half a million rand. The Minister was asked to provide details on what was being done to alleviate the dire situation, especially in the Western Cape. Dams had shrunk to an all time low. What was each department doing to assist?
The Minister spoke about Phase 2 of the Back to Basics programme and the dysfunctionality of 60 municipalities. Currently 60 municipalities were in dire straits financially and completely dysfunctional. However, he believed that the way forward should be to get buy in for a recovery plan for each individual municipality and to support municipalities to rectify the matter. COGTA needed to come up with a diversified economic plan to boost those municipalities without an economic base. In a worst-case scenario, it might be necessary to abandon some of the municipalities, but COGTA needed to make an informed decision. Combining two poor municipalities would not work as COGTA was then simply adding poor to poor and getting poorer municipalities. COGTA needed legislation to deal with the instability, and currently the demarcation legislation was being reviewed. The following week, the Minister would be announcing the National Advisory Panel that would deal with the impasse between the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and Eskom.
Members identified a number of specific municipalities where corruption was suspected and others where Eskom was disrupting the electricity supply on a regular basis. Members asked for copies of all the forensic reports of municipalities that had been undertaken as part of the Back to Basics programme. They asked about the status of the Intergovernmental Monitoring, Support and Intervention Bill which the Committee had been hearing about since 2014. It was suggested that in accordance with Section 139 of the Constitution, the Minister should take a hard line on dysfunctional municipalities that did not follow the recovery plan.
The third matter on the agenda was for the Minister to respond to media allegations about his relationship with Trillian and Mohamed Bobat. The Minister clarified that although the Committee was under the impression that Trillian had been appointed to do work for his Department, no work had been commissioned by COGTA. He gave a chronological account of his engagement with Trillian. In January 2016, Oliver Wyman Consulting had introduced the subject of Trillian as a supplier and development partner that had had global success in turning around municipalities. He and his Department were interested in what could be offered to South African municipalities. A presentation had taken place on 18 January 2016. Trillian offered a free diagnostic scoping of COGTA. However, during the scoping, it became clear that there would be costs involved and so COGTA did not further pursue the proposal. Trillian was never commissioned.
One Member began questioning the Minister about his relationship with Mohamed Bobat, special advisor to the Minister, who was in attendance at the Portfolio Committee meeting. He asked about Mr Bobat's engagement with Trillian after his appointment to the Ministry and about the Minister’s trip to Dubai in December 2015. The Chairman was not happy with the prosecutorial approach taken by the Member and a heated discussion ensued. The Member was allowed to ask his questions but was not satisfied with the Minister’s answers.
The Chairperson noted that the Minister had been invited to speak on the state of COGTA. He would not be making a presentation but would give a general update on COGTA. He noted that the Committee had not met the COGTA's two Directors General. They had never attended a Committee meeting. The Committee needed to meet them. The Committee had thought that it was necessary to have a general discussion on COGTA. The Directors Generals were not simply general staff; they work Heads of Departments. He hoped that the Directors Generals would give the Committee their contact numbers. The intention of the day’s meeting was to give the Minister a platform for a discussion between the Minister and the Committee on many issues in respect of the state of COGTA and about the implementation of the programmes that the Committee had discussed the previous year. He was particularly concerned about the second phase of the Back to Basics programme.
Members would engage and have discussions on matters that how been concerning them. The meeting was not an administrative engagement but to understand how its programmes were making an impact on the ground and what the challenges were in their implementation. The Minister of Finance had announced that R54 billion of the R350 billion Department budget had been unspent at local government level, despite the challenges facing local government. The Committee had concerns about this under-expenditure. The term of office was not going to end in 20 years’ time, but it would end very soon; the following year, in fact. There was a drought facing the country, and the Committee could not avoid talking about the drought, precisely because he was the Minister responsible for that coordination. Drought had hit part of the Eastern Cape. Nelson Mandela Bay was facing a serious problem. There was not going to be presentations, but the Minister would take them through the issues and how he saw the way forward. He asked if Day Zero was coming.
Mr K Mileham (DA) noted that Day Zero was coming on 11 May 2018.
The Chairperson joked that the Member could be throwing bones. The Committee wanted to have a discussion with the Minister on strategic issues of a broad nature. The Committee was meeting knowing that that morning people in QwaQwa were protesting and he was hoping that there would be no damage to property. It was very clear that the department the Minister was heading was facing many challenges at a political level. The meeting was intended to be a general discussion. At a future meeting, the Directors General could come with their slides and explain what they were doing to improve the country.
No documents had been distributed because the Committee did not want documents but discussion on the state of local government in the country. The term was ending next year, and the Committee had not yet had the privilege of engaging him on serious issues.
He welcomed the Minister who was a Member of Parliament by definition. The Minister declined an invitation to sit alongside the Chairperson and face the Committee.
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs briefing
Mr Des van Rooyen, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, thanked the Chairperson. He was meeting most of the Committee for the first time in the new year, so well wishes were in order and he wished everyone a happy and prosperous 2018. He apologised for being 15 minutes late, but he had to make a presentation in Cabinet and thanked Cabinet for lining him up to present first. Otherwise it would have caused complications with the arrangement with the Committee. People were quick to report so he did not want them to think he was running away from this important and democratic exercise.
The Chairperson said that everyone in the Executive was accountable to Parliament, but they could be understanding of 15 minutes.
The Minister registered a concern from a public finance point of view. The advantage was that he had gone through the process of being a Member of Parliament. He knew how the Committee should function and that the Committee planned according to parliamentary guidelines. The Minister had received an invite for three items on the agenda. On the basis of that, his team had made preparations. He had brought his team and paid them to travel despite the fact that finances were not conducive. He did not think that it was appropriate for them to come to the meeting and be told that the presentations that they had prepared they could not present. He did not think that it was fair, and he wanted his concern registered. He and his team had been guided by the invitation but from what the Chairperson had just said in his explanation on how the meeting was to be conducted, the meeting was to be different from the guideline he had received. He did not want to be seen to be rendering the exercise useless, or undermining it. He. therefore, looked to the Chairperson to guide him and his team.
The Chairperson informed the Minister that he was taking the Committee wrongly. The Committee had invited him and told him what he must do and what to elaborate on and that would be covered as he made his presentation. There was no change in the agenda. The agenda was as he had been invited to do. He had indicated to the Minister about the concerns of the Committee and the other areas to be covered. As he made his presentation, the Committee would be concerned about Back to Basics, appointments, urgent new legislation. He should bear in mind that the Committee would ask some questions on those matters. The Committee was not changing what they had invited him to do; it was an elaboration of what the Committee had wanted him to do.
The Minister was on the platform and as the Chairperson had already furnished him with the agenda, he was asking for direction as to where to start as there was a plethora of issues in COGTA and that one could not engage simply for the sake of engagement.
The Chairperson indicated that the Committee had invited him to focus on three issues, but Members would ask about other matters. He could not stop Members of Parliament from asking questions on any matter. He had to recognise that there was no way that they could meet and not discuss the drought problem.
The Minister said hoped that Members were aware and had been following that the beloved country remained crippled, or affected adversely by the drought. He was referring to the mainly to the Western, Northern and Eastern Cape. All three provinces were currently or had declared themselves disaster areas as provided in the legislation. The drought conditions were having profound negative implications on the economies of these provinces. These provinces had declared provincial states of disaster, but the remaining parts of the country were also affected, at different levels. There were pockets of drought in other provinces which attested to the need for a sustained strategy to ensure the management of drought and other hazards, given that the country was regarded as one of the driest countries in the world. South Africa was currently ranked number 30. The effect of climate change was there to stay.
On the positive front, the 2016 General Household Survey, released in May 2016, noted that a sizeable number of the population still had access to water-related services, but he was not going to bore the meeting with statistics. The drought could not be examined in isolation of the primary developmental challenges facing the country. In particular, it was critical to analyse the daily development challenges of increased vulnerability to drought. As a collective leadership, they should work together tirelessly in a concerted manner to address this. This included local government and its ability to provide services in a sustainable manner and maintain those services. The application of the principles and practices of intergovernmental relations would ensure sector alignment at planning and implementation levels. The quality of services and the eradication of the services backlog had been inherited from the evil system of apartheid. There was over-utilisation of natural resources and to what extent are citizens responsible.
The effect of the current drought could be seen in both the economic, social and environmental dimensions. For instance, in the Western Cape, the agricultural sector, amongst others, had reported a major decline in performance as a result of drought. He was not going to get into the statistics. What measures were currently being taken to deal with the drought? Firstly, it was important to acknowledge that according to the world assessment of state of readiness of the country to deal with disasters like drought, South Africa was highly regarded. South Africans put a lot of pressure on themselves, but globally the country was renowned for its disaster management systems. In the management of the current drought, government had established under the capable leadership of His Excellency, President Zuma, a Inter Ministerial Task Team on Drought and Water Scarcity which had been functioning to provide political leadership and oversight. Among the frameworks that team had employed as measures to manage the drought were these notable interventions to date. Since the outbreak of the severe drought, the leadership of the country and civil society formations had pulled out all the stops to ensure that there is long-term recovery. There were still challenges. A number of measures had been implemented and were bearing fruit, including issuing early warning messages, drilling and equipping of boreholes in all provinces, the application of water restrictions to regulate the use of water, the provision of animal food and fodder, water tankering in areas of severe need, the promotion of the use of drought resistant cultivars, reduction of water usage by industries and other users, such as crop farmers, change of timing of cultivation and irrigation, and many others.
He had to indicate that in August 2017, COGTA had allocated R74.8 million to the Western Cape to deal with the situation. COGTA was responsible for national coordination, processing requests from provinces for funding of response and recovery measures. He had, however, to register his dissatisfaction, or maybe the collective dissatisfaction, with the spending trends in the Western Cape. The province had requested the money as an emergency from COGTA’s emergency funding and, almost six months down the line, the province had only registered 24% expenditure. That expenditure trend undermined the purpose of the intervention and it was even compounding the matter because that province was currently looking for more resources to introduce innovative measures to cope with the drought. It really made his work difficult at the national level, more especially if COGTA had to convince everyone that it was rendering resources to only one province. He also wanted to talk about what had been reported in the media about the utilisation of close to "half a billion rand" just for communication on that matter by the Western Cape government He hoped that the Chairperson had been following the situation. The use of almost "half a billion rand" for communication purposes was a matter that he was following up on and definitely he was hoping that he would be provided with information because it was something that had been reported in the media. More than R 400 000 utilised on communication! Those were the allegations that COGTA was currently following up. It was a concern that the Committee should also entertain.
What of the way forward? In the light of the prevailing drought conditions and taking into account the forecast shared by Weather Services in the Inter-Ministerial Task Team, he was looking into classification. An Inter-Ministerial Task Team meeting would be held that day at 2 pm to consider the technical submission on whether to agree with the request of the three provinces to declare the drought a national disaster. Without pre-empting the outcome of the discussions, if the task team did that, coordination would be better, and they would not have the many stories that they had been hearing about how people were being assisted on the ground. Procurement for required interventions would be expedited. The technical team had been tasked to gather all the required technical information before the task team came to that determination. Hopefully, later that day the nation would be informed about the position taken by the Ministry. He had to indicate that he regularly considered reports and if the status of the declaration changed from provincial to national, that would mean that COGTA had to babysit those provinces up until the situation was brought under control. That was where he would end, unless the Committee wanted a technical presentation in terms of the figures.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister as he had understood the request of the Committee from the beginning that Members did not want the minute details. He appreciated the big picture and the context of the drought. The Committee did not know about the interventions in the Eastern Cape. The Committee understood the point that the Minister was making about the Western Cape. Of course, there were two other provinces affected by drought, but the Western Cape was problematic. It was a serious issue as it affected production and farming, increased unemployment and caused a lot of problems.
Mr Mileham commented that the Minister had made a very interesting statement when he said, “The country was crippled by the drought". He had been saying that since February 2016. He had said it in reply to the State of the Nation Address in 2016 and he had asked at that time, that the government declare a national disaster. His colleague, Annette Steyn in the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Committee, had, since 2014, asked for a national disaster to be declared. The response had always been that it had to affect the whole country but that was not what the Disaster Management Act said. The Disaster Management Act said that it had to affect more than one province, which it clearly did but the Minister sat on his hands and did nothing. He did not declare a national disaster, he refused to release funding, he refused to address the issue, and then he came to the Committee and was grandstanding. That was unacceptable. He spoke about R78.4 million going to the Western Cape and it was really appreciated as a great initiative, but it was not nearly enough. Considering that the Disaster Management expenditure last year was underspent by somewhere in the region of R300 million. R300 million was not released for a relief purposes. Why had he not declared a disaster earlier? Why had the full Emergency Disaster Funding not been released?
Mr Mileham wanted details on the Inter-Ministerial Task Team and whether the team was dealing with other spheres of government, i.e. with good intergovernmental relations in the various provinces and municipalities. He had it on good authority that there were some 20 towns without water at that moment. What was COGTA doing to address that specifically?
He referred to the 24.8% spend of R78.4 million in six months. He thought that it was pretty good because the province could not initiate tender processes without the money and once the funding was there, the province had to initiate tender processes and those things took time to roll out and that phased payments were paid over the duration of the project. All the money was not released up front, even though certain members of the ANC government like to pay for coal upfront. One could not expect massive drought relief projects, such as desalination plants and the like, to be established overnight.
The Minister had spoken of half a billion rand expenditure on communication. He would like to think that the Minister had got the number completely wrong and he relook at the number. Maybe it was half a million rand and not half a billion rand spent on communication. Where did the Minister think any provincial government would find half a billion rand for communication? Mr Mileham summarised his questions for the Minister.
Prof N Khubisa (NFP) thanked the Minister. He wanted to understand the issue of synergy. He understood that the Department of Water and Sanitation should be playing a pivotal role, working in tandem with the district and local municipalities, as well as the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. He asked that the Minister provide some details as to what was being done to alleviate the dire situation, especially in the Western Cape. Dams had shrunk to an all-time low. He wanted a picture of what each department was doing. He had seen the advertising in the airport that stated: ‘One drop means a lot.’ That was a way of alerting everyone to exercise extreme caution when utilising water. He wanted to find out the Minister’s views on desalination and water purification. He asked about expertise that had been released to come and assist because it was a question of people’s lives and livestock as well. He understood that the drought was in various provinces, but it was very precarious and dire in the Western Cape.
Mr N Masondo (ANC) said the Committee did need to have an interaction with the Minister of Water Affairs. Comprehensive interaction would help inform a way forward for the Committee. Other specific interventions would need engagement with the Ministers, such as the desalination programme, and it might be important for the Committee to visit the plant being built. He had seen a documentary on Carte Blanche showing what was being done. The Committee should emphasise and encourage long-term solutions.
He was disturbed by the sense that in the Western Cape the drought was being politicised and the Committee should avoid going down that path as that could lead to a disaster. What was needed was greater cooperation with stakeholders. The intervention should not be seen as elitist. He had read about the rise in prices of bottled water. The Committee could assist in that part of the problem. A lot of people could not afford to buy bottled water at R1.00. The Committee needed to look at other negative issues that were creeping in. For example, the Committee needed greater clarification on the involvement of Umgeni Water and the whole controversy around that in the media.
He expressed appreciation for the work being done but it was necessary to ensure that interventions were meaningful and not short-term as climate change was there to stay. The Committee needed a report on the Eastern Cape and the Northern Cape and the 20 towns without water. The Committee should not get into panic mode but should pay attention to the information available.
The Minister said he could not agree more with the request for more information. One of the biggest issues was how to communicate with the people on how government was dealing with the matter. An important point was the need for a collaborative approach. The way that the National Disaster Centre was structured, as provided for in the Act, the Committee could check records to see that the national teams in the provinces and at local government level were there to collaborate with and support both municipalities and provinces. He agreed that it was important to work in an integrated way. As parliamentarians they should insist on that approach so that they did not get information coming in a piecemeal fashion.
Having identified that need, the Inter-Ministerial Task Team had agreed that COGTA would be approaching Parliament as a team. The composition of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team included Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Water and Sanitation, Environmental Affairs, Communications and National Treasury. They were contemplating a comprehensive approach as it also included floods and fires. The task team had commissioned a study to determine the state of readiness of the country to deal with the impact of climate change and how to implement the climate change policy. The responsibilities had to be costed because the biggest challenge was resources. The Minister believe that it was important to be frank so that the country could understand how the task team was responding to disaster related issues. COGTA had spent a lot on disaster risk prevention. The team had to consider how to introduce disaster reduction methods in the country.
The Chairperson noted that a joint meeting of all the Committees that dealt with disaster would be meeting the following day where the Committees would receive a very detailed briefing by the Minister and his team.
The Minister stated that it would help to share more information as requested by Members. He would respond to questions on the Eastern Cape at the meeting the following day.
While there was no water, they were improvising. They were tankering water and drilling boreholes. The team was considering the introduction of innovative methods such as desalination which was very costly, but they were dealing with something that was not the work of mankind, i.e. climate change. He could assure the Committee that there was a principal undertaking of bolstering the contingency reserves, specifically to deal with disaster related issues. Details would be made available at an appropriate time. There was no space to manoeuvre in the fiscal space to do everything that is requested from the national fiscus but there was commitment in principle to bolster disaster-related resources.
The Minister agreed with Mr Masondo that greater cooperation was required. People wanted solutions. They were not interested in who knew how to define Day Zero. They wanted responses to the daily challenges such as some of their taps were without water.
Why had government not declared a disaster? Mr Mileham knew that processes had to be followed before a disaster was declared and the Minister believed that those processes had been followed. His question when he had been asked about declaring a disaster last time was to ask whether all resources been exhausted, and the national disaster could not be declared before that time. Government was responding appropriately to the situation and could not be pushed into a tight corner because some people wanted to realise their particular objectives. The technical team had been asked to look into the requirements to declare a national state of disaster. The task team would take a decision on whether to declare a disaster after the technical team’s presentation that afternoon
R74.8 million had been allocated, not to deal with disaster, but with emergencies and six months down the line, he heard about procurement processes that were still being followed. Everyone should be concerned about only 24.7% used. He needed a better report to convince him than the story of supply chain processes. He did not know why only 24% had been spent. He wanted answers. His Ministry had written to the relevant authorities but had not yet received answers. He needed to do away with inefficiencies. If the Member of Parliament had more information, he should explain, as the value of the R74.8 million was being reduced as prices were not static, but dynamic.
He had referred to allegations regarding half a billion rand. They were allegations and he was still going to probe them. The allegations were not only about monetary value - it was also about the beneficiary. The former DA leader, Tony Leon, was the beneficiary. He needed to probe to discover if they were giving people money to create political war chests or were they giving money to deal with real issues on the ground.
The Chairperson asked if he was confident, as convenor of the team, that he was on top of the drought in the Western Cape. The Minister would be coordinating the national ministries to deal with the current situation and so his question was whether the Minister was on top of the situation.
The Minister replied that he was confident. It was necessary to improve on how they collaborated as role players. He agreed with Mr Masondo that the role players should not play politics when dealing with the challenges. Collaboration had been there, and he could prove it. It was not a new thing. But these things were being overshadowed. The situation should not be politicised. Government was on course to provide a lasting solution to the challenges in all the provinces.
The Chairperson reminded the Members that there would be seven hours of discussion on disaster.
Mr E Mthethwa (ANC) asked what the core problem was for Western Cape. Was it the programme or the funds for the programme in the Western Cape?
Mr Mileham believed that he had not been given a satisfactory answer about why the Minister had not declared a disaster earlier. He had said, quite unsympathetically, that one had to exhaust all resources before disaster could be declared. However, one of the points about disaster management was that one did not exhaust all resources. Plans should be put in place to address the disaster before all resources are exhausted. Declaring a national disaster, would have given the country the opportunity to prepare for a massive drought of that nature. He found the Minister’s comments completely lacking in sympathy for people on the ground who were struggling on a daily basis, and he was not talking about any particular part of the country without water. The Minister did not answer his question as to why a disaster was not declared earlier and why the full contingency of emergency funding had not been allocated the previous year. He had not answered the question about specific remedial actions although he had spoken about tankering and drilling, and he asked where that was taking place. People asked about it. It was local municipalities that were doing everything in their power to try and keep the taps on and the water flowing. What was it that the National Department was doing to address the drought? Although it was a matter for the Water and is Sanitation Committee, he pointed out that there were dams and water canals that were silted up and no action had been taken to clear the silt in those dams.
As the Chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team, he expected the Minister to have a response to that. If anyone was playing politics, the Minister should look in the mirror as he had made that statement 30 seconds after he had slammed a contract that had been given, following a fair and just process, to a former leader of a political party.
The Minister stated that COGTA would fully elaborate in the presentation the following day as to where and how much money had been released from the emergency grants to municipalities for drought measures, in all three provinces, not just the Western Cape. He knew that all the affected areas were competing for resources and the National Department had to do a balancing act as to where resources were allocated so that they did not do it at the expense of other constituencies. They had to consider other constituencies and they would base distribution on the basis of the applications.
The Chairperson stated there would be sufficient time to discuss details the following day. He requested the Minister move on to the next area. Members had observed that the protests were growing. Phase 2 of Back to Basics would allow everyone to begin to address the issues. What was the impact that the Minister was making in moving forward? Back to Basics was a very good programme that all the Members had adopted, and they had to assess whether that programme was making an impact. Where were examples showing improvement in life? The Committee would come back after SONA and have a look at the situation. Former mining towns and station towns were disappearing. The issue was at the political level. Members had visited various areas for public hearings and to see the progress that was being made.
Back to Basics programme: Phase 2
The Minister stated that he would give a helicopter view and he would take Members through the process. 60 municipalities had been diagnosed as dysfunctional. Working with National Treasury, COGTA was developing recovery plans. The plans needed to be realistic and specific, not generic. That was why they were focused on each of the 60 municipalities individually. National Treasury had analysed the finances of the municipalities and had checked the prospects of municipalities, one by one. He and COGTA had visited the majority of the municipalities as part of the hands-on approach and had explained the second phase of the Back to Basics programme. In the meetings, they had been able to sit with Premiers, MEC and local government for a whole day to discuss what each municipality was doing. The South African Local Government Association (SALGA), both local and provincial, and provinces had participated.
What was the expected outcome? The fact was that they had been having interventions in previous years, even before he became the Minister, and some of the municipalities were exactly the same ones where they had intervened in the past. So, it was clear things had to be done differently. What were the preliminary findings that he could share with the Committee? Firstly, issues of governance and leadership. There was a lot of political meddling and lot of contestation as to who becomes a councillor and an employee. And one could not run away from that. The economic basis of municipalities was highly questionable. Municipalities were the only hope of a job and that was leading to leadership and governance challenges, and, of course, corruption.
Dependence on grants and funding from the national fiscus became a reality. Municipalities were adopting unfunded budgets. How did one do that? But it was prevalent in some municipalities. In the Mafube Municipality, the council had taken a very funny decision, without consulting either the provincial or the national authorities, as per legislation, and had decided to write off the debts of ratepayers. In some cases, it was not about the economic base and there was no investigation and consideration of who was eligible to have debt written off. Before they had written off the debts, the payment rate in the municipality was 81% or 82%, but after they had written off those debts, those who had previously paid, stopped paying. The payment rate dropped to 40%.
There was no one size fits all. COGTA needed to do things differently. Political buy-in was needed to give effect to the recovery plan. The Minister and his team had visited North West, Northern Cape and Free State. The recovery plan to be developed, had to be adopted as a Council resolution, and not as a “by the way” thing. It should also be adopted and supported by districts and provinces and those responsible for the municipalities. The provincial Cabinets should adopt it, and thereafter go to the national Cabinet. All provincial sector departments had to get on board. If the plan was adopted that was not supported by provinces, that plan would fail. If other ministers went into that space and did not support the plan, they would do different things. The Committee had to know what was being done to breathe life in to those municipalities when they did their oversight work. Members had to agree that some municipalities would never be resuscitated by a recovery plan.
The Programme had to be biased towards poor communities. COGTA needed to come up with a diversified economic plan to boost those municipalities because, without an economic base, they would encounter problems. The Minister wanted a buy-in from all political parties or they would be running the plan in a vacuum. Most of the problems at local level were political and people were contesting positions. Before June 2018, COGTA would have something clearer to report. COGTA was following up on municipalities in provinces that had been visited and was asking for the recovery plans. Once COGTA had visited all provinces and received recovery plans from the municipalities, the Minister would be able to report in about June. In a worst-case scenario, it might be necessary to abandon some of the municipalities, but COGTA needed to make an informed decision. Combining two poor municipalities would not work as they were then simply adding poor to poor and getting poorer municipalities.
COGTA needed legislation to deal with the instability and currently the demarcation legislation was being reviewed. That was important legislation as it determined characteristics for a functional municipality. There were 267 municipalities, but the Minister could report some progress, although there was still a lot of work to be done.
Mr C Matsepe (DA) noted that the Minister wanted to craft a new way forward when for four years the government had been working on Back to Basics. Government had not delivered on that one and yet the Minister was now drafting a new way forward. He found the over emphasis on recovery quite annoying because the Minister knew very well that those municipalities were being looted by his own people who were politicians and municipal managers. The political heads and the municipal managers were conniving in this. The Minister was not hands-on in the municipalities.
It had been decided that 43 municipalities ought to be investigated. How many of the 43 municipality had been investigated and what were the outcomes of those investigations? Why were investigations at Elias Motsoaledi Local Municipality and Sekhukhune District Municipality called off? COGTA was there for two weeks and then the investigations were called off. The Minister had to tell the Committee that very day why the investigations had been called off. After that, there had been utter silence. The Committee had been very happy that, for the first time since 1994, municipalities, where corruption was raging daily, were being investigated. A month after the investigation, the municipality got a letter saying that because Sekhukhune District Municipality endorsed the projects, there was nothing wrong. The Minister had to tell them if the district municipality had anything to do with individual responsibilities in the local municipality. Why did the district municipality, which was also very corrupt, try to babysit those projects in the municipality, if corruption was not the issue there? The Minister should not be telling the Committee that they should be doing things differently.
Former Minister Pravin Gordhan had told Committee Members in Johannesburg at the Local Government Summit in September 2014 that things would be different done differently. Minister van Rooyen was telling them that he was going to do things differently again. He was just not concerned about the corruption that was going on in the local municipalities. The Portfolio Committee was going to call the Municipal Manager and the Directors, as well as the Mayor, to come and account to Parliament. There were too many problems at the Elias Motsoaledi Local Municipality. There was a project called “The Yellow Fleet” and it was alleged that the yellow fleet belonged to the Municipal Manager. Mr Matsepe wanted a reply from the Minister within three weeks, telling him whether the yellow fleet belonged to the municipality or to an individual within the municipality. Allegations had to be investigated.
The municipality had had no growth point because it had been surrounded by farms and could not expand. It had been decided that a game farm would be opened up for human settlement and the game had been sold off but, 10 years later, security guards were sitting on the farm guarding it so that people did not cut the trees. The municipality was paying R70 000 per month for the private security company. Those were issues that needed to be addressed. Why were the investigations called off? The Minster did not want to talk about corruption
The Chairperson asked if Mr Matsepe had reported the corruption to the police.
Mr Matsepe replied that it was not his job but that of the Minister.
The Chairperson said that people had to report the corruption. The matter seemed to have been with Mr Matsepe for many years, but he had not reported it. It was the duty of everyone to report any corruption that they saw.
Mr Mileham noted that under Minister Gordhan there had been an initiative to collect all the forensic reports of municipalities as part of the Back to Basics programme to determine what action had been taken on those reports. That was in 2014. He asked if that process had been finalised and the outcome of that process.
The Minister had spoken about 60 dysfunctional municipalities and Mr Mileham asked if he agreed that the amalgamation of dysfunctional municipalitied had resulted in further dysfunctionality. Gariep had been combined with another municipality to form the Joe Gqabi Municipality. Before they had been amalgamated the Financial and Fiscal Commission had advised that it was bad practice and yet the Minister and the National Demarcation Board had gone ahead and implemented it. Did the Minister see that amalgamating dysfunctional municipalities was not the solution? Another example of an amalgamation that had resulted in one enlarged dysfunctional municipality was Tlokwe and Ventersdorp. Tlokwe had been solvent but Ventersdorp had been in financial distress and now the combined municipality was in financial distress.
He asked the Minister about the Intergovernmental Monitoring, Support and Intervention Bill. What was the status of that Bill? The Committee had been hearing about the Bill since 2014 as it was supposed to give guidelines on how, and when, and where a province and the national Department could intervene in a municipality. And yet the Committee had seen nothing on that Bill.
Mr Mileham referred to the municipal financial recovery plans that the Minister had spoken about and were in development. He suggested that the Minister read Section 139 of the Constitution and, specifically, subsection 5, which obligated the provincial government to intervene where a municipality was in financial distress and where a provincial government did not assist. It obligated the Minister to intervene and it was obligatory for the municipality to adhere to the recovery plan. Where a council ignored the recovery plan, the council had to be dissolved. So, if there were instances where municipalities had ignored a financial recovery plan, why had they not been dissolved?
He asked, through the Chairperson, that the Committee receive copies of all the financial recovery plans since 2014, and whether they had been implemented, and, if not, the reason why. He recalled that the Head of the Financial Recovery Service in National Treasury had indicated to the Committee that there had been a lack of co-operation from COGTA. Why was the Minister not taking stronger action against municipalities? Why was he not implementing financial recovery plans, dissolving municipalities and doing what was constitutionally required of him?
Mr Mileham’s last question was about Eskom and water throttling. The Minister sat on an Inter-Ministerial Task Team to address this and yet there were people who had daily cut-offs of their water and electricity. The people who were cut off were invariably residents who were paying for the electricity. It was not the Eskom supply areas that were being cut off. It was the municipal supply areas where people, largely, paid their bills because the municipality could implement credit control. What was the Minister doing to assist those municipalities to sort out their debts to Eskom and the Water Boards? Had progress been made? Had Eskom been persuaded to write off debt that had prescribed, i.e. debt older than three years? It seemed to him as if everyone was sitting and waiting for the problems to go away. As head of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team, what was the Minister doing?
The Minister wanted to assure Members that, when he came in, there had been pressure for him to adopt his own approach to local government but, because he had been in the sector for quite some time, he looked at the plans and thought that, in the 15 years, a very good job had been done, but there some challenges, some of which were perennial. He had not rejected Back to Basics and started a new thing as that would have derailed their cause and affected the realisation of the decisions as enjoined by the National Development Plan. They were not crafting new approaches but were making the current system work.
One of the things that had caused the plans to fail was that plans were imposed on municipalities from national level, although that was not the sole cause of the problems with those municipalities. The Minister’s approach was to encourage municipalities. It had to be remembered that the same Constitution - the Member had been very, very selective and some people were very good at that – had a participatory and integrated model of government and he and his Department should support and assist municipalities. That was his approach. He was not prepared to support a Big Brother way of doing things as that would not work. The spirit of integration and collaboration had to be promoted at all costs.
The forensic report had been undertaken in 2015. The Minister was ready to give a report on what had been done in specific municipalities. That report had been undertaken by his predecessor. He would present so that people would know the status of Sekhukhune as work was going on and there were people who were currently in jail as a result of that intervention. He asked the Chair to allow COGTA and himself to make a presentation on what had been done with all of those forensic investigations. It would be important to share that with the Committee.
The Ministry had learnt the lesson of “poverty plus poverty”, but it was not negative in all instances. People had to be positive and not negative and to appreciate those instances in which changes had been made. At the same time, they had to realise that there were challenges. Members were aware that there had been some financial challenges as a result of the amalgamation process. He had acknowledged that and hence he was making a submission to the Minister of National Treasury as the transitional allocation made available to those municipalities was not always sufficient to deal with the transitional challenges of amalgamation of municipalities. Those municipalities had not displayed the traditional financial problems as expenses had been incurred in dealing with the transition. They were looking into how to augment funding for transition, albeit within the current financial constraints.
On Eskom, there was a lot of good work being done and the number of municipalities being cut off had been reduced. When last had anyone heard of electricity been cut off? COGTA had managed to reduce the number of municipalities likely to be cut off but there was still a lot of work to be done. It was not only about the money owed to Eskom by the municipalities, but there were also technical and legislative issues as well.
The following week he would be announcing the National Advisory Panel that would deal with the impasse between SALGA and Eskom. They would be given two months to complete the job. SALGA was contesting that it was the only executive authority, but Eskom was saying that NERSA was an executive authority and had given Eskom a licence, so Eskom could not be forced to sign the Service Level Agreement as expected by SALGA. SALGA was calling for a declaratory order from court. The Minister had said to them that it was an inter-government issue and there was no need to go to court. They should sit down and resolve the differences and try to find an amicable solution to that problem. He could, however, table that that thing was big because it had to do with the viability of municipalities and the viability of Eskom itself. He thought that it would result in financial modelling on the municipalities as well as Eskom. He reaffirmed that the panel would be announced the following week. The panel would advise the Inter-Ministerial Task Team. It was to be a results-driven panel and it would not be there forever. It was currently one of the biggest problems he was facing because municipalities stated that if they did not sign a SLA with Eskom, they were being denied an opportunity to generate income. He was confident that the collaborative approach in the Inter-Ministerial Task Team would alleviate the situation.
In response to the Minister asking when last had anyone heard of electricity been cut off, Mr Mileham said Eskom was cutting off Makana, eMalahleni, Mbombele, Magareng, Dikgatlong, Thembilihle, Ramotshere Moiloa and Madibeng municipalities as he spoke. Those municipalities were currently facing supply disruption. If the Minister did not know that, then it was a big problem because the Minister did not know what was happening in his own Department.
The Chairperson interjected that the Committee was only dealing with major issues.
Mr Mileham contested that it was a major issue that affected many, many South Africans and should be a priority for the Minister to deal with. He knew about it because he kept his finger on the pulse of what was going on in the country.
The Chairperson stated that it was not an issue that the Committee had time to deal with now and that Mr Mileham was ambushing the Minister
Mr Mileham said he found the comment distasteful and asked that the Chairperson withdraw the remark.
The Chairperson stated that Mr Mileham was playing politics.
Mr Mileham replied that he was doing his job as a Member of Parliament and holding the Minister accountable. If the Chair did not want to apologise, he would carry on doing his job.
The Chairperson agreed that he should do his job.
Mr Mileham told the Minister that the municipalities that he had mentioned currently faced cut-offs. He asked the Minister if he was aware that two years previously, Parliament had written off R60 billion in debt owed by Eskom to National Treasury, and yet Eskom was unwilling to write off debt older than three years that was owed by municipalities. Writing off prescribed debt would make it easier for the municipalities to make the repayments because, if one were honest, the municipalities were never, ever going to be able to repay the debt. They simply could not afford it. Yet no one was willing to take the hard decision to write off the unrecoverable debts. He would expect the Minister as the chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team to be driving this. The list that he had read out contained mostly dysfunctional municipalities. These were municipalities with a very low revenue base. Debt older than three years should be written off to give the municipalities a chance to get back on their feet.
Mr Mileham said that the Minister had accused him of quoting selectively from the Constitution. Mr Mileham thought that the Minister was referring to Section 154 which said that national and provincial government must support and strengthen local municipalities. And he agreed. But what the Minister was ignoring, was his constitutional obligation in terms of Section 139(5) which said that the relevant provincial legislature and the Minister had to intervene where there was a crisis in the municipality’s financial affairs, and where a municipality was in breach of its obligation to provide basic services or to meet its financial commitments. Those were municipalities that were unable to pay the bills or unable to pay the salaries of employees. That was a clear-cut case of being in crisis. And yet nothing. Government had to support and talk nicely to them. No! No! Government had to put its foot down and say that it would no longer accept the situation. The government was obligated to intervene. The Minister was obligated to intervene and yet, for political reasons, he would not intervene because it would look like his political party could not manage its municipalities – which, if he was honest, was the case. He told the Minister that he had a job to do and the people expected him to do it.
The Chairman told Mr Mileham that he had the Minister sitting next to him, so he should enjoy the engagement.
Mr Masondo intervened and said that all Committee Members knew of municipalities that did not have a tax base. That was a reality. He agreed with the Minister that it was work in progress. The South African Constitution recognised the powers of the municipalities. Elsewhere in the world, such as the Middle East and some countries in Europe, one would not find that situation. The powers were in the Constitution. What the government needed to do was to keep on working with municipalities to ensure that in the medium-to long term they became sustainable. The issue of the tax base needed to be discussed in an ongoing way. The Ministry had to be able to say to the Committee how far he had thought about the issues, what the possibilities were, and what was being done about it. The Committee needed to have a sense that someone was actively thinking about matters. The responsibility to think about the matters, engage with them and come up with innovative solutions was not only the responsibility of government, but SALGA also had a role to play, and so did other stakeholders. There were many ideas that people had that were not based on a realistic assessment and evaluation of the situation. A place like Nkandla would never become a metro, even in many years to come. One should never be satisfied and should question things but should do it in the ambit of being realistic.
The Chairperson asked the Minister if he wished to comment.
The Minister said that the challenges facing the sector were not child’s play. Apartheid had messed up the system. Undoing that was going to take time. The passion of the Member was appreciated but he could rest assured that the Minister was concerned about the state of some of the municipalities. COGTA had intervened and had taken drastic steps. Dissolution had happened. He had just come from the Metsimahalo municipality in the Free State because the constitutional obligations had not been adhered to. COGTA had also done that in other municipalities, so Members should not be worried as that was part of the follow up and it was not only supporting without taking drastic steps.
The Minister apologised that he had not responded to the question about debt write-off. That was one of the things that the Task Team was looking at in their engagement with Eskom. The Eskom Board had agreed to review what had been long outstanding and the devil in the system. The writing off of old debt was being entertained.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister and reminded the Committee that they would have a very comprehensive report around June. By June the Committee would have visited the 60 dysfunctional municipalities, some of which would never work. Mr Masondo was right, but government would work on it. The forensic report had never been sent to the Committee and it had been outstanding for three years. The Committee was waiting for that report. He noted that it was important to deal with corruption, such as in the case of at Elias Motsoaledi Local Municipality, as raised by Mr Matsepe. Members also had to report corruption. They had to report to the police and not to the Committee Chairperson as he was not the police. The Committee would also play its role with the amendment of the Demarcation Board legislation because there were problems there. The Committee would deal with the question of the drought again and the following day, they could have a discussion about it.
A lot of money had been spent on forensic reports and, if they were not released, it led to questions of corruption. He wanted a report on the result of the engagement between Eskom and SALGA. It had been an issue that had been going on since Mr Masondo was a young man and he was soon to retire. Prescribed debt should be addressed, as well as those towns that were experiencing electricity disruption. The constitutional argument was between the Minister and Mr Mileham and they should get together and work it out.
The Minister asked if the next agenda item was for him to respond to media allegations.
The Chairperson said that it was a matter that had been raised several times, but when the Minister was busy he had to be allowed that space to do his work. However, the Committee wanted to close the matter.
State Capture media allegations
Minister van Rooyen indicated that he had an impression that the Committee, or the Member, was under the impression that a certain business entity had been appointed. There had been no work commissioned by COGTA to any of the alleged parties. He reminded the Committee that he was responding for the second time, which meant that there was no evidence that any such work was commissioned by COGTA. He reminded the Committee that the Minister was not prevented from listening to presentations from private companies or service providers as he had to understand the latest innovations. Any service required following such a meeting, had to be subjected to supply chain processes.
He would take a chronological approach in responding to the question. In January 2016, Oliver Wyman Consulting had introduced the subject of Trillian as a supplier and development partner. Oliver Wyman introduced the people who requested a meeting to give an indication to the COGTA collective or executive team on what they could do. They were introduced as an organisation that had had global success in turning around municipalities so obviously he and COGTA were interested in what could be offered to South African municipalities.
The presentation took place on 18 January 2016 after proper requests. The records were there to show that Trillian had asked to meet, just as any service provider would do. They presented an unsolicited potential solution whereby they would do a diagnostic scoping of COGTA related to COGTA objectives and that they could do a project at no cost. During the scoping, it became clear that there would be costs and so the proposal was not pursued further. Trillian was never commissioned. No work had been done. To date, Trillian had had no dealings with COGTA.
The Chairperson said that it was very, very helpful just to hear that.
Mr Mileham asked if he could ask a question and get a response to each question. The Minister had said on two occasions that the matter was sub judice. He had asked why it was sub judice, but he had not received a reply. He was surprised that the Minister thought that that was an adequate response to the Portfolio Committee or to Parliament. However, he had some questions, but he wanted to build up to a background before he got to the nub of the matter. He asked when and where the Minister had first met his special advisor, Mr Bobat.
The Minister asked if this meeting was an inquiry. He had heard that there was to be a Commission of Inquiry which had just been commissioned to deal with that matter. He asked if the Member’s question related to the original question or whether the Committee wanted to take the inquiry route. He was under the guidance of the Chairperson. If a committee inquiry was set up, he would be presenting his responses to the Commission of Inquiry and not here.
Mr Mileham reminded the Chairperson that the Minister was accountable to Parliament and that his advisers and chief of staff were all appointed to the Ministry and as such, he was accountable for them and their actions. As part of his oversight role in Parliament, Mr Mileham was asking when and where the Minister had first met Mr Bobat. It went to the question that he had asked about Oliver Wyman.
Mr Masondo stated that his plea would be that Members should raise questions and the Minister should think carefully. He agreed that a Commission of Inquiry to look at State Capture had been instituted but, while saying that, Committee Members had a right to ask questions and to get appropriate responses. It was not appropriate to be told to wait until the Inquiry. However, he did not want one Member to ask all the questions.
The Chairperson said that it was not a public inquiry as that was not the Committee’s responsibility. It was not about Judge Zondo. It was about the Minister answering questions that the Members had put to him. He took the point that other Members could also ask questions. It could not be a prosecutorial approach. Holding the executive accountable was no doubt an important aspect of Parliament, but the important thing was how one asked the questions and got answers.
Mr E Mthethwa (ANC) asked what exactly was the topic the Committee was trying to embark on. The Members should have been given the topic, because now some of them had not prepared thoroughly.
The Chairperson noted that a letter had been written to the Minister about some of the issues. It was a Committee meeting with the Minister answering and being accountable to the Committee, and not a public inquiry. The Minister would answer the question if he was comfortable to do so. He did not have to answer questions that would be answered in the Inquiry.
Ms N Mthembu (ANC) asked how they were going to tackle it if some questions were not answered that day because it was not a court of law or an investigation. If the questions were not going to be answered that day, what was the use? She agreed with Mr Mthethwa that the Members should have been given the opportunity to prepare thoroughly and to decide which topics could be discussed and which could not. The Committee would be asking questions and the Minister would say that he would was not going to answer.
The Chairperson said the Minister was generally accountable to Parliament and there could be no Minister anywhere who did not respond to questions by Parliament, but they should not bring up things through the back door and hold an inquiry. The Minister would answer as he wished – no one could tell him how to answer a question.
The Minister asked about Rule 89 as he would be using that rule as he was entitled to do so.
The Chairperson informed the Minister that Rule 89 stated that one did not have to answer a question if one believed that it would relate elsewhere. He had the right to do that but if he did so, there might be some questions as to why he was not able to answer.
Mr Mileham said that he would be taking a point of order on the matter and requested that the Chairperson got a parliamentary legal advisor in to deal with it. First of all, the meeting had been requested in terms of Rule 167 and had been signed by at least one third of the Members of the Committee. The request specified in writing exactly what the Committee wanted to discuss and was sent in September 2017. It was not something new. It had not been brought in the back door but was something that he had been trying to get onto the agenda for at least five months. The Minister and the Chairperson and the other members of the ANC could not try and pretend that they did not know that it was coming up as he had raised it again, and again, and again. That was the first thing.
The second thing was that the Minister had said that he would be invoking Rule 89. Rule 89 said that no Member might reflect on a matter on which a judicial decision in a court of law was pending. There was no judicial decision pending in any court of law that he was aware of. If the Minister could refer him to a court case, he would withdraw his question. Mr Mileham noted that the Constitutional Court had defined the sub judice rule as: there had to be a demonstrable risk from answering that question. It had to result in some demonstrable risk to the judgement in the case. He argued that the Minister had no right to invoke Rule 89 of the House of Assembly Rules. The Commission of Judge Zondo was an inquiry into state capture. He did not know what was going to be brought before that Commission; the Chairperson did not know what was going to be brought before that Commission; the Minister did not know what was going to be brought before that Commission. So, to suggest that what he was asking about was sub judice because of a potential court case, was absolutely ludicrous. He again requested that the Chairperson get a parliamentary legal advisor in the room to deal with the matter, failing which, the Committee should proceed.
The Chairperson noted that the Minister was there to respond. The Minister was being questioned for accountability reasons. He could not be questioned in a quasi-judicial way. It was not an inquiry. It could not be only Mr Mileham who asked all the questions.
Mr Mileham said he had eight questions and he did not know if there would be others.
Mr Mthethwa stated that he had already pointed out that some of the Members needed to prepare and therefore it would not be fair to question the Minister at that time.
Mr Matsepe said that just because other Members had not prepared, they could not stop his colleague.
The Chairperson stated that the Minister had read the letter that had been sent to him and Members knew the background, so they could also engage with the Minister.
Mr Mileham repeated his question. When and where did the Minister first meet Mr Bobat?
Mr Masondo said that he thought he should raise a question on the Gupta question because it was current. Could the Minister clarify if he had had direct contact with the Guptas and, if so, who did he meet and what kind of issues were discussed. His question also related to correspondence and whether the Minister was aware of the emails and, if so, what did the emails allege? He could start on that tone so that that some kind of background would be provided.
Ms Mthembu noted that the Minister had said that COGTA had thought that Trillian was doing the diagnostic research for free but then COGTA had discovered that it was supposed to pay a fee. Had she got it right? Could she have clarity on that?
The Chairperson asked if the Minister wanted him to take one more question. He told Mr Mileham to ask one more question.
Mr Mileham explained that he could not ask a question as the Minister had to give an answer to his first question before he moved on.
The Chairperson told Mr Mileham that he had to ask one more question. Was Mr Mileham perhaps not ready to ask questions?
Mr Mileham asked what specific attributes, qualities or qualities had made the Minister bring Mr Bobat onboard, firstly in the Ministry of Finance and then three days later in the Ministry of COGTA.
The Minister explained that he had tried to give a chronological account of events. There was formal correspondence from his office and the service provider and that could be provided. Mr Bobat had no role to play in the process as it was the Minister’s own decision to listen, or not to listen, to the service provider. And neither was there contact with the Guptas. He had not had time to go through the Gupta Leak emails and, at present, he was not privy to those emails. In his opinion, due process was followed for giving an audience to a service provider. He had alerted his staff to the fact that if a service provider said that it would do research pro bono, and then the service provider could not be paid going forward, so the arrangement had ended.
Mr Mileham said that he had not got a response to his question about Mr Bobat. He had asked the Minister when and where he had first met Mr Bobat and he had not heard an answer to that. He had then asked him what specific qualities, attributes or experience Mr Bobat had brought, firstly to the Ministry of Finance, and then to the Ministry of COGTA, that he had been appointed as a special adviser in both cases. He was asking about Mr Bobat who was an employee of the Minister.
The Minister responded that it was not the business of the Committee. The process of appointing people such as Mr Bobat had gone through Ministerial Handbook and the DPSA (Department of Public Service and Admnistration).
Mr Mileham stated that he was not asking about the process. He was asking when and where the Minister had first met Mr Bobat and what skills and attributes he had brought to the Ministry. He was not asking anything else and he did not need an answer to anything else. The Minister had to stop dodging the question. He asked if the Chairperson was protecting the Minister.
The Chairperson responded that he was not protecting the Minister but that the Committee had to be fair to the Minister. He told Mr Mileham that all Ministers appointed whoever supported them and they had never reported to the Committee. The Minister would answer the question in the way that he chose to answer it and if Mr Mileham was not satisfied, he could ask another question.
Mr Mileham asked the Chairperson if national government paid Mr Bobat. Yes or no?
The Chairperson agreed that he surely was.
Mr Mileham stated that the matter fell squarely within the scope of the Committee if he was paid by the national government through COGTA. And if the Minister did not want to answer the question, then he guessed that he would see the Minister in court. It was a very simple question. Where and when did he first meet Mr Bobat?
The Chairperson stated that if the Minister did not have an answer to the question, he could not say, “See you in court". The Minister was answering. He had gone through the background information to assist Mr Mileham to understand the situation. And now he was raising an issue about day and time and where.
Mr Mileham said that he was asking when and where the Minister had met Mr Bobat. At a party in 2015? Did he meet him in London in 2008? He just asked when and where the Minister had met Mr Bobat.
Mr Mthethwa intervened on a point of order. The Committee did not discuss administrators or members of staff. They had never seen CVs. It was out of order, which was why he had asked exactly where they were going. How was it going to assist the Committee? Administration issues would take the Committee nowhere.
Mr Mileham explained that his questions would lead to Trillian and Wyman. Mr Ramaphosa had said in Parliament that Committees had to investigate issues around Trillian. Whether or not it was a political issue, the Minister was accountable to the Committee and if the Minister would answer his questions, he could get to the point where the Committee could see the relevance of the questions. But he needed a straight answer.
Mr Mthethwa made a comment behind Mr Mileham.
Mr Mileham asked the Chairperson to call him to order.
The Chairperson called Mr Mthethwa to order. He stated that the Minister would answer as he saw fit. The answer could be taken out of context. The matter of Trillian had become a bigger issue. The Deputy President had said that they should find out about Trillian and try and conclude the matter. That was why the Minister had answered in the way he had, giving the background information. He had his own staffing issue. Mr Mileham had to ask a question and then the Committee could move on.
Mr Mileham said that evidence had been introduced in an affidavit format that Mr Bobat had facilitated meetings with Trillian before the unsolicited proposal had arrived on the Minister’s desk. There was evidence that Mr Bobat was intimately involved with Trillian and Regiments Capital Management after he had been appointed as special advisor to the Minister. Mr Mileham was trying to build a picture of the relationship between a senior official in the Minister’s office and an unsolicited proposal.
The Chairperson stated that a platform had been created by the Head of State by appointing the Deputy Judge President, Judge Zondo. That was why the Minister had answered in the way that he had done. If Mr Mileham had evidence, that evidence had to be presented to the relevant forum of Judge Zondo.
Mr Mileham told the Chairperson that he was trying to determine what the Minister knew about his Department.
The Chairperson cautioned Mr Mileham that he was putting the Committee in a difficult position. The Committee should not abuse oversight. The Minister would answer as he saw fit. But Mr Mileham was talking about evidence and they did not have that evidence before the Committee.
Mr Mileham interjected that he was trying to hold the Minister accountable.
The Chairperson stated that Mr Mileham was disallowing them to have the evidence and he reminded him that a platform had been created by the President of the country for everyone who had questions about Trillian, the emails and everything.
Mr Mileham informed the Chairperson that the evidence of the Gupta emails had been handed to the Minister in the House. The emails were in the big brown envelope that was handed to the Minister by Ms Mazzone. The second evidence was handed into the hearing by the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises. It was the evidence of Ms Bianca Goodson who had been an employee of Trillian. He was assuming, and he could be assuming wrong, that Members were aware of issues that were tabled in Parliament and were tabled in Portfolio Committees. Once the Minister had answered, the Committee could then move on and deal with some of the operational and administrative issues of COGTA.
The Chairperson stated the Committee Members might be aware of such things, but Mr Mileham could not put the Committee in a quasi-inquiry situation without a mandate to hold public inquiries. Those other Committees had been given a mandate to address specific issues. Their evidence leader had been given all those details. That evidence was not relevant for the COGTA Portfolio Committee.
Mr Mileham stated that he was trying to hold the Minister accountable and he was not getting an answer as the Chairman was protecting the Minister.
The Chairperson denied that he was protecting the Minister.
Mr Mileham asked the Chairperson if he could ask the Minister to answer the question.
The Chairperson asked the Minister if he was willing to answer the question.
The Minister stated that he had answered the question and did not mind repeating his answer. He stated that Trillian and Oliver Wyman were like any other service providers when they had come to present to him on what they could do to turn around municipalities without cost. There was previous correspondence between his office and the service providers. On the basis of that he had allowed them to present to him. The project was called off when COGTA realised there was going to be a cost. That was his simple response. He did not know why Mr Bobat was coming in here.
Mr Masondo said that it was lunch time.
Mr Mileham stated that that was pathetic.
Mr Masondo believed that the comment was really out of order
Mr Mileham stated that he withdrew.
Mr Masondo asked if the Committee could break for lunch and come back at about 2pm.
The Minister stated that he had earlier indicated that he had a meeting at 2 pm.
Mr Mileham asked if the Minister was aware that Mr Bobat was feeding information to Trillian and/or Regiments Capital.
The Minister replied that he was not aware of that.
Mr Mileham stated that that the information was in Ms Goodson’s affidavit. He asked the Minister to read from the statement of Ms Bianca Goodson. If not, he would read the statement himself: Ms Bianca Goodson stated that the unsolicited proposal to Minister Des van Rooyen had been arranged by Mr Bobat. She would find a white envelope on her desk when she arrived in the morning and shortly thereafter she would receive a phone call from Mr Bobat clarifying the content thereof.
Mr Mthethwa objected to Mr Mileham’s questions as he did not have a copy of that evidence.
Mr Mileham asked if the Minister was aware that Mr Bobat had attended management meetings at Trillian after he had been appointed as a special advisor in the Minister’s office.
The Minister asked if Mr Mileham was enjoying the process. He was not aware. His focus was more on …
Mr Mileham asked if the Minister would agree that, if he had attended those management meetings at Regiments Capital and Trillian, that would have been a conflict of interest given that they were preparing an unsolicited bid to the Minister.
The Minister agreed that it was obvious.
Mr Mthethwa made further comments. The Chairperson informed him that he was out of order.
Mr Mileham noted that the Minister had had been appointed Minister of Finance on 15 December and appointed as Minister of COGTA on 18 December. Was that right?
The Minister stated that he would have to check his diary.
Mr Mileham informed the Minister that it was correct that he had been appointed Minister of Finance on 15 December and appointed as Minister of COGTA on 18 December.
The Chairperson stated that he was wasting time.
Mr Mileham stated that on the 21 December, the Minister had flown to Dubai and stayed at the Oberoi Hotel in Dubai. In a public statement, the Minister had said that it was a private trip and had nothing to do with anyone except himself. Why then was the booking made and organised by Sahara Computers?
The Minister informed the Chairperson that the question had nothing to do with the questions submitted by the Portfolio Committee or the issues that he had been asked to respond to. He called on the Chairperson to use his powers and to protect him.
Mr Mileham asked if he could show where he was going with the questions. There was a distinct link between the Guptas, Mr Salim Essa, Mr Mohamed Bobat, Regiments Capital and Trillian and the Minister was aware of all of that. It was extremely suspicious that he should fly to Dubai on 21 December for a one-day trip, and that Sahara Computers booked that trip. Could the Minister look at the emails and give him the details?
The Chairperson stated that, more and more, he was convinced that Judge Zondo would be the relevant person to deal with. He was dealing with the state capture.
Mr Mileham asked the Chairperson if he was telling him that he could not look into malfeasance at COGTA.
The Chairperson stated that Mr Mileham was trying to turn the Committee Meeting into a quasi-judiciary process.
Mr Mileham asked him whether he had seen the emails.
The Chairperson responded that he had not seen a single email. He was not sure how that was helping the Committee as Mr Mileham was building the case as if in an inquiry. The Chairperson agreed with Mr Mileham that the Minister was accountable to the Committee, but he was not expected to answer in a judiciary type format. He had answered many questions already. What if the Minister did not want to answer?
Mr Mileham asked the Minister if the trip to Dubai had been organised by Sahara. Yes or no.
The Minister stated that the question was irrelevant.
Mr Mileham asked if the trip had been declared.
The Chairperson stated that declarations happened all the time.
The Minister confirmed that he had declared the trip.
Mr Mileham stated that such a declaration was not to be found in the 2016 Register of Member’s Interests in Parliament. But that was interesting.
The Chairperson stated that he was not comfortable. Mr Mileham was leading evidence. He should go to Judge Zondo.
Mr Mileham replied that if he had received all the information that he had requested, it would not need to go before any court.
The Chairperson stated that the Minister had answered very well.
Mr Mileham replied that the Minister had not answered the questions well. The Minister had not answered any of the questions that he had put. His point was that he did not know why Bobat was appointed, but it looked like he had been appointed to facilitate a deal between Gupta-linked companies and COGTA.
Mr Mileham and the Chairperson argued about whether the Minister had answered satisfactorily.
Mr Mileham asked the Minister whether there had been any other interaction between COGTA or the Minister, with Trillian or Oliver Wyman or any other Gupta-linked company.
The Minister responded that he had explained that no deal had been concluded and that the matter had not been taken any further.
The Chairperson and Mr Mileham continued to argue on whether questions should be political or factual.
The Chairperson complained that Mr Mileham had papers that no one else had.
Mr Mileham said he would be taking the matter to the Chair of Chairs asking him to establish an inquiry into the relationship between Minister van Rooyen and Trillian, Regiments Capital, Oliver Wyman and the like.
The argument continued about the approach of the Committee and the Minister’s responses to the question.
The Chairperson stated that Mr Mileham should take his questions to Judge Zondo who was more competent to deal with legal issues. The Chairperson stated that he was not there because he was a professor of law. He was there because he was a politician. The problem was that Mr Mileham did not accept “No,” as an answer and wanted the answers that he wanted. The Chairperson was hungry, and he wanted to go and eat. Mr Mileham thought that the Members of the Committee and the ANC just wanted protected their Ministers. The Chairperson was hungry, and he wanted to go and eat
The Chairperson thanked the Minister for his input. He reminded the Committee that there was a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Water Affairs the following day. Mr Masondo was also invited, if he was around.
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