The Standing Committee on Finance met to consider a number of Committee issues. The Committee resolved the Public Investment Corporation Amendment Bill (Committee Bill) would begin to be processed and public hearings would be held. The Committee also endeavoured to process the Banks Amendment Bill (Private Member’s Bill: Mr Floyd Shivambu) but this would only be done after mid-June because the Committee’s programme up to that date was finalised. There was also possibility the Bill would overlap with the Postbak Bill due to be introduced soon.
The Committee then passed a resolution on the subpoena of Mr Markus Jooste in relation to the Steinhoff matter. The Committee wants to interrogate Mr Jooste about the circumstances leading to the collapse of Steinhoff’s shares. It was discussed that the matter would probably end up in court but, as one Member suggested, this might be best so that Parliament could establish clarity in summoning individuals. Adopting a resolution of the Committee was necessary so that the correct processes for summoning were undertaken and affirms the decision of the meeting of the four Committees on 28 March 2018 to summon Mr Jooste. The Speaker would then have to concur with the resolution and thereafter the summons can be issued by the Chairperson, through the Secretary to Parliament, for delivery by the sheriff of the court to wherever Mr Jooste is. The Committee envisages a provisional date in mid-August for a hearing with Mr Jooste. The reason for the appearance of Mr Jooste, and the documents the Committee wanted him to produce, are also critical details for the subpoena.
In preparation for the following day’s meeting, the Chairperson informed the Committee he received a letter requesting the Committee be mindful of a disciplinary currently underway regarding Mr Jonas Makwakwa and KPMG. Members said they would go along with the request given the circumstances around these issues provided they were dealt with due course.
Regarding the issue of the closed South African Airways (SAA) meeting last week, the Chairperson made it clear he did not sanction any application for a closed meeting – he had no authority to do so without the Committee moving for and adopted such a resolution. The matter must now be dealt with by the Committee Section. A resolution would be brought to the Committee next week to adopt which says that the Committee must abide by the Rules, meetings are always open, only in exceptional circumstances are they closed, where they are closed there must specific reasons given for it and an application must be made and approved by the Committee.
The Committee would need to look at closing a section of the meeting where market sensitive information of SAA was discussed. A Member said the Committee should be mindful of the fact that some people wanted the SAA meeting open to deliberately sabotage the airline. SAA was in crisis and there was objectively sensitive information which SAA cannot disclose publically. Members should not be allowed to take pictures of SAA documents to tweet them. The Committee should guard against opportunism which may arise.
PIC Amendment Bill (Committee Bill): resolution
The Chairperson outlined that the resolution on the Bill contains the key points of the legislation. This did not point to the outcome of the legislation but was mainly a draft. Public hearings on the Bill would also be held. The Committee was exempt from going to the House next week except to vote.
The Committee resolution on the PIC Amendment Bill was adopted.
Mr F Shivambu (EFF) appealed for the Committee to handle its business in a more structured way – meetings require an agenda. Added to that, the Committee did not adopt minutes which allowed for decisions taken by the Committee to be verified when required – this was what happened last week with SA Airways (SAA). Proceedings should not be rushed as they were being now.
The Chairperson said the agenda was sent out last night and it was very clear. The Committee did not operate in the way of formally adopting agendas but if this was how the Committee wanted to conduct affairs, this could be done.
Mr Shivambu said Committees operate the same way everywhere in the world.
The Chairperson asked if the Committee could then adopt the agenda sent to Members last night. The staff were recording attendance and there was a quorum. This was like all other meetings but if Members preferred to go through the formalities this could be done.
The Committee adopted its agenda for today.
Mr Shivambu raised the matter of the Committee adopting minutes.
The Chairperson reminded Members that the Committee agreed and voted on adopting minutes at the end of each quarter. Very few Committees adopted minutes at each meeting. Seven other Chairpersons were contacted and none of them did it – the evidence could be provided. The minutes were of poor quality and it was impossible for the Chairperson to rewrite minutes.
Committee Resolution: Markus Jooste (Steinhoff) subpoena
The Chairperson reminded Members that when the four Committees met on Steinhoff, there was agreement on exploring the possibility of subpoenaing Mr Jooste. This process had begun. There was discussion between the Chairperson, Mr C Frolick (House Chairperson: Committees) and Adv F Jenkins (senior parliamentary legal advisor). It was discussed that the matter would probably go to court because of two imperatives – (1) right of Parliament to subpoena anyone in terms of the law, and (2) the right of a person, who may face possible prosecution in SA and elsewhere in the world, to fair defence. It is likely the matter would be taken to court.
After further discussion, Mr Frolick suggested specific questions not be included but rather that the Committee seek to make a general point. The Committee should also recognise the right of Mr Jooste to a fair defence in a court of law.
The Chairperson asked Adv Jenkins to take the Committee through its resolution.
Adv Jenkins said the resolution was specifically necessary for the process because of the threat of possible court challenge. Mr Jooste indicated he would not come to the Committee and communicated, through his lawyers, that it would jeopardise his right to a fair trial, as indicated in a letter to the Committee. The Powers and Privileges Act require a resolution of the Committee. This resolution affirms the decision of the meeting of the four Committees on 28 March 2018 to summon Mr Jooste. The Speaker would then have to concur with the resolution and thereafter the summons can be issued by the Chairperson, through the Secretary to Parliament, for delivery by the sheriff of the court to wherever Mr Jooste is. The location of Mr Jooste is not known. Before the subpoena was sent, the Committee will have to determine a place, date and time for the meeting – this was critical detail for the subpoena. The reason for the appearance of Mr Jooste, and the documents the Committee wanted him to produce, are also critical details for the subpoena. It was agreed this would be kept generic to outlining the reasons for the collapse of Steinhoff shares and their value. From this may follow questions relating to tightening the regulatory environment.
Mr Jooste does not represent an organ of state so the questioning of him must be in terms of Parliament’s mandate i.e. what Parliament could do in terms of its oversight mandate or legislative mandate to prevent recurrence of this financial collapse. The Committee cannot try Mr Jooste or find him guilty of anything as it was not within Parliament’s mandate.
The Chairperson indicated this meeting was not to finalise but simply to put forward a resolution to pursue the matter. Parliament’s legal services unit, the office of the Speaker, the Chairperson and Mr Jooste’s lawyers engaged to expedite the matter. It was agreed the meeting would take place in the third week of August. To be safe, the meeting should be set for the third Wednesday in August and the venue can be booked in the next 24 hours. The Speaker’s office is responsible for processing the subpoena.
Mr D Maynier (DA) supported the initiative and passing of the resolution. The advice was to have generic formulation on what Mr Jooste would provide evidence to the Committee on – would this possibly, unnecessarily, confine the Committee?
Adv Jenkins did not think so as valuable information can come from Mr Jooste especially when it came to explaining how this collapse in fact occurred, possible role of SA auditors, preventing future lapses etc. He did not think there was anything constraining the Committee from carrying out those functions. Sometimes however there is a fine line around what can be said.
Ms T Tobias (ANC) said the legal advice of Mr Jooste should not prejudice the role of Parliament by subjecting the Committee to have preconceived questions. The regulatory framework is established by Parliament so this gave the Committee leverage in dealing with these matters. The question was whether Mr Jooste would be in fact answer questions if he appeared before the Committee. This is what the Committee needs to manoeuvre around.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) said that in his experience with the Eskom inquiry, and witnesses being called there, Mr Jooste, in terms of the Powers and Privileges Act, has full protection from any civil or criminal proceedings if he is truthful. It is important that the resolution clearly provide the link between Mr Jooste and the mandate of Parliament perhaps by bringing in some public interest in terms of the collapse of value of Steinhoff shares. If the Committee is sure there is a sufficient link to bring Mr Jooste before it, it is fine. August is three months away – Mr Jooste’s legal team is likely to bring a review application. It is necessary for the matter to go to court to bring clarity to the issue of Parliament issuing subpoenas. Could an earlier date not be provided instead of waiting for August, only for the matter to head to court? Delaying tactics would be played until Parliament rose for elections. The sooner the better for heading to court so that clarity could be ascertained.
Mr Maynier proposed the Committee adopt the resolution.
The Chairperson outlined four Committees took the decision to call Mr Jooste because of certain processes of Steinhoff International. It was agreed to meet in the second week of August because it is when Parliament returns from recess. He did not have a mandate to go back to the other three Committees to bring the date forward as Mr Jooste was linked to other issues the Committee was looking into. He suggested the resolution be adopted. The resolution said “the Committee mandates the Legal Services Unit to engage with the Speaker’s Office, Mr Jooste’s lawyer and the Chairperson of the Committee to expedite this process with the requirement that the Chairperson report back to the Committee regularly as necessary” – nothing is done without the consent of the Committee. There should also be a line included that the Chairperson confer with the other three Chairpersons.
The resolution for the subpoena of Mr Jooste was adopted.
Banks Amendment Bill
The Chairperson outlined the Bill was in the programme of the Committee for processing according to the Rules exactly as Mr Maynier’s Private Member’s Bill. However the processing of the Banks Amendment Bill would not happen before mid-June as the Committee’s programme up to that date was finalised. The Committee would be able to look at the Bill in August. There would probably be an overlap with the Postbank Bill due to be introduced to Parliament in the coming weeks. The Committee could discuss processing the Bills together but this could be discussed separately.
Mr Shivambu said there was no overlap between his Banks Amendment Bill and the Postbank Bill – these were two completely different issues, as the Committee would see when the Postbank Bill came before it.
Committee Meeting the Following Day
The Chairperson alerted Members to a letter he received this morning. He said the Committee would be looking at the Makwakwa and KPMG matters. These issues were part of a disciplinary inquiry current underway so the way in which tomorrow’s meeting was handled needed to take this into account. Members should think about this and engagement on it could occur offline.
Mr A Lees (DA) said he would go along with the request given the circumstances around these issues provided they were dealt with due course.
The Chairperson was pleased to hear that reasonable response. The Committee would need to formally table the Hogan Lovells report to focus on how much money was yielded, illicit financial flows and illicit tobacco trade.
SAA Closed Meeting
The Chairperson made it clear he did not sanction any application to the office of the Speaker – he had no authority to do so without the Committee moving for and adopting such a resolution. The Acting Chairperson acted in good faith thinking the Chairperson had approved the closing. This matter must be dealt with by the Committee Section. The Committee did agree market sensitive issues would be discussed in a closed meeting.
A resolution would be brought to the Committee next week to adopt which says that the Committee must abide by the Rules, meetings are always open, only in exceptional circumstances are they closed, where they are closed there must specific reasons given for it and an application must be made and approved by the Committee.
The Chairperson was clear that meetings can only be closed in terms of the Rules and this is what the Committee will do only in respect of market sensitive issues. Perhaps 20 minutes of a meeting would be closed in this regard. The resolution would be sent to Members in the next 48 hours.
Ms Tobias added that she did not take the decision to close the meeting. She was informed by the secretariat that the meeting was closed. Rightly so, the DA requested proof of the application and an application was produced with the signature of the Chairperson.
The Chairperson said he did not put his signature to any application for a closed meeting. The matter would be dealt with by the Committee section. The persons involved would be given right of reply. Neither the Chairperson nor Acting Chairperson made representation to Mr Frolick for approval of a closed meeting – this could not be done without a mandate in any case.
Mr Shivambu said the Committee should apply to the House Chairperson to have the next session of SAA in camera – the Committee should be unambiguous about that. The Committee should be mindful of the fact that some people wanted the SAA meeting open to deliberately sabotage the airline. SAA was in crisis and there was objectively sensitive information which SAA cannot disclose publically. Members should not be allowed to take pictures of SAA documents to tweet them. The Committee should guard against opportunism which may arise.
The Chairperson said he was on the same page and the Rules allowed for that. SAA is a state-owned company and some people might think the Committee was trying to hide information. Therefore only the section of the meeting dealing with market sensitive aspects would be closed. The office of the Speaker and Mr Frolick would decide.
Mr N Kwankwa (UDM) said MPs were elected as leaders to be entrusted with these issues so Members should prove to the public this can be done without jeopardising SAA.
The Chairperson agreed. A resolution would be brought to the Committee.
The meeting was adjourned.
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.