Eskom Inquiry: Discussion on way forward; Second Term Committee Programme

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Public Enterprises

27 March 2018
Chairperson: Ms L Mnganga-Gcabashe (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Acting Chairperson of the Eskom  Inquiry told Members that four witnesses still had to appear before the Committee, namely the Gupta brothers, Mr Duduzane Zuma and Mrs Dudu Myeni. The witnesses had resorted to “duck and dive” tactics through their lawyers, or had claimed illness, as in the case of Ms Myeni. The Committee had decided to send out summonses to the witnesses, but there were problems as witnesses did not want to give their residential addresses, or their lawyers resorted to delaying tactics. More submissions were coming in, and she suggested that it be received in the form of affidavits. She related that she had received an anonymous call on the preceding Sunday from a caller who accused the Committee of being biased. She indicated that she felt intimidated by the call.

In discussion, Members expressed outrage over the allegations by the caller, and concern for the safety of Ms Rantho. A DA Member and the Chairperson had also received calls. The Committee rallied behind Ms Rantho and called for strict security measures, with a suggestion that the police do an urgent threat analysis, and that the matter be referred to the Speaker. It was suggested that the Parliamentary Legal Office give guidance in the matter of summonses. A proposal to accept affidavits until 13 April was accepted. The Acting Chairperson of the Inquiry Committee suggested that assessment and discussion of the way forward be discussed in a closed session. The proposal was accepted, and the meeting continued without the media.

Meeting report

The Chairperson set out the agenda and put up the Second Term Committee programme for adoption.

The programme was adopted with no changes.

Update on developments related to the Eskom Inquiry
Ms D Rantho (ANC), Acting Chairperson, Eskom Inquiry Committee, told the Committee that it was supposed to meet with four remaining witnesses, but they did not come to the Committee. Those were the Gupta brothers, Mr Duduzane Zuma and Ms Dudu Myeni. They were either out of the country or claimed that they were sick and needed transcripts. The Portfolio Committee (PC) decided to send out summonses. The witnesses knew that they had to appear, and were resorting to ducking and diving strategies. They knew that the PC wanted to conclude matters by the end of March. There were obstructions to the serving of summons on those based in SA, because they did not want to supply residential addresses. A summons could not be e-mailed. According to South African law it had to be served at a residential address, and handed to the person. The Gupta advocate claimed that the summons could not be accepted as he had received no directive from the clients to accept. Ms Dudu Myeni would not give an address, saying that she would appear when she was well, as she wanted to clear her name. The Zuma lawyers wanted a transcript from the Portfolio Committee (PC). There were other people who wanted to make submissions, but the PC wanted to move with its report, hence it was suggested that they could provide affidavits. There were still people who wanted to make submissions. She had received a phone call on the preceding Sunday, from a person who spoke isiZulu. He was of the opinion that the PC was biased. He claimed that the PC had not spoken to people who had green contracts with Eskom, and were taking Eskom down. He made the accusation that information was orchestrated by the Minister of Public Enterprises, Mr Pravin Gordhan. The way the caller spoke was intimidating. He never gave her chance to speak. She told him that she would inform the PC, who would make a decision whether he could submit an affidavit.

Discussion
The Chairperson noted the suggestion that further submissions be submitted as affidavits, so that the PC could proceed according to the timelines and table a report before the House in June.

Ms N Mazzone (DA) commented that all parties had done research on the matter. It had to be considered in a closed meeting what to do about the summons. She asked if a sick note had been received from Ms Myeni. The public had a right to know if the claim was true. She agreed about further submissions to be received as affidavits. She herself had received calls over the weekend at regularly spaced intervals. She did not take the calls. It boded ill that the acting Chairperson of the enquiry committee was getting suspicious phone calls. A way had to be found to stop that kind of nonsense.

Mr S Swart (ACDP) agreed that dealing with the summons had to be discussed in a closed meeting. Although the Guptas were in India, a summons could be served at their last residence at Saxonwold. The police could inform the Committee of Ms Myeni’s address. Time was running out, while people were playing delaying games. There had to be a cutoff point for affidavits. He suggested that two more weeks be granted. Otherwise affidavits would still be coming in while the PC was busy with the report. He rejected allegations of bias with contempt. The PC was guided by lawyers. He was concerned about the call Ms Rantho had received. It was an act of intimidation, and a last gasp attempt to detract from the inquiry. He assured Ms Rantho that the PC was behind her. He rejected the allegation against Minister Gordhan with contempt. Levels of security had to be upped. Ms Mazzoni had also received calls. The Committee had to stand resolutely against intimidation.

Mr M Dlamini (EFF) advised that faceless calls not be reacted to, until the process was complete. Notwithstanding this, he was concerned about security. It was not the first time a thing like that had happened. VIP protection was available. The Minister of Police had to be spoken to, as there was an urgent need for protection. It would not be sufficient to merely condemn the call. Mere talk would not suffice. The call was received on a Sunday. At the last meeting it was decided that the Legal Office had to give guidance about summonses, and to advise how to deal with people who would not appear before the PC.

Mr N Singh (IFP) agreed that the PC had a responsibility to protect Members. He was not surprised by what had happened. It could have been expected from the beginning, given the amount of money and corruption involved. He agreed with Mr Dlamini that the police had to be approached. There had to be a threat analysis. Ms Rantho had to go to the police and lay a charge. The police could do an urgent threat analysis. Parliament had to assist. It had to be referred to the Speaker. It had to be done on behalf of Parliament. Two weeks before a similar group had barged into a meeting in Durban and got violent. Summonses had to be delivered to Duduzane Zuma and Dudu Myeni. SA had so many laws that saw to it that people could run, but not hide. The question was why Parliament was not able to deliver a summons. The persons referred to were on the voters roll, and could be traced. They were insolent and arrogant and it set a bad precedent if Parliament could not deal with them. The question was how much emphasis had been placed on delivering the summons. He believed that not enough had been done. A summons could be stuck on the door of the Gupta Saxonwold residence. That would mean that it was delivered. It could stand as proof of an act of delivery. He urged that the PC not give in. Although the inquiry had already taken long and everybody was tired, the time frames were not to limit the doing of a thorough job. The credibility of the process would be questioned if the necessary interviews had not taken place. A proper job had to be done. The Committee was not to be taken for granted and treated with contempt.

Ms Rantho commented that she was seeing the light about the security issue. She was threatened by BLF youth the week before. One of them had pointed at her and said that she was the one who led the inquiry committee. The police at the gate were witness to this. She reported the received call to the security police. The facts that Members had put forward had to be considered. She proposed that the legal route be discussed without the media present.

The Chairperson remarked that the majority of members were agreed that affidavits could still be received. She proposed that the cutoff date be 13 April. (Members were in agreement). She suggested that affidavits not be advertised for. She had also received calls on the preceding Sunday. There were three missed calls to which she responded. The person called again and said that he had been in church, in the meantime he had gotten hold of Ms Rantho. She suspected that he had been given telephone numbers for Ms Rantho and herself. He said that he had given his message to Ms Rantho, and ended the calll.

Mr Singh proposed that after affidavits had been received, there had to a decision about who to call for oral interviews. He suggested that there not be an end date. The media was still under the impression that there was a 31 March deadline, and the Guptas had hung their coat on that. The Guptas and the two others still needed to give evidence. He asked that the Chairperson pronounce on the matter.

The Chairperson noted the strong view by Mr Singh, but the meeting had made a decision (to allow affidavits until 13 April).  She had received a letter from the Speaker in relation to a motion raised in the House on 2 March, about the unfair and illegal dismissal of 12 employees at the Transnet terminal in Port Elizabeth. Letters were sent to Transnet, and it was indicated that Transnet had to respond to the Committee. Letters were also copied to the new Minister. A response from Transnet was still awaited. She referred to the request by Ms Rantho for the meeting to continue in session.

Ms Rantho said that according to the agenda, the intention was to assess and discuss the way forward on the day. She proposed that it be done without the media. The media could request a statement from any party. The ANC would provide a statement about progress with the inquiry from 23 May 2017 until the present.

The Chairperson proposed that item five on the agenda be proceeded to, in a closed Committee session.

Ms Mazzone seconded the proposal.

The Chairperson allowed a two minute comfort break, after which the meeting would continue in closed session, without the media.

Later that day, the Committee released the Media Statement below

INQUIRY TO TABLE ITS REPORT IN JUNE

Parliament, Tuesday, 27 March 2018
– The Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises tasked with the inquiry into the mismanagement of state funds at state-owned enterprises met on Tuesday to discuss a way forward for the inquiry.

The committee noted with deep concern the threats received by phone call on the weekend by the Chairperson of the Inquiry, Ms Zukiswa Rantho. The committee agreed that the matter must be reported to law enforcement agencies so that a security threat analysis can be done and proper action can be taken. The committee also believes the matter should be reported to the Speaker of Parliament.

In its closed meeting, the committee has decided to accept affidavits from the individuals who have indicated their interest in making submissions to the inquiry. The committee set a final date of 13 April as the deadline for submitting the affidavits.

The committee took a decision that summons will be served to the outstanding witnesses, the Gupta brothers, Mr Duduzane Zuma and Ms Dudu Myeni.

The committee is planning to finalise its first report in May and the final draft will be tabled in Parliament in mid-June.

ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMUNICATION SERVICES ON BEHALF OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE INQUIRY FOR THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ENTERPRISES, MS ZUKISWA RANTHO

For media enquiries or interviews with the Chairperson, please contact the committee’s Media Officer:
Name: Ms Yoliswa Landu
Parliamentary Communication Services
Tel: 021 403 8203
Cell: 081 497 4694
E-mail: ylandu@parliament.gov.za

 

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