A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
JOINT COMMITTEE ON ETHICS AND MEMBERS INTERESTS
29 May 2001
YENGENI ETHICS INQUIRY
Deputy-Chairperson: Mr M Mushwana (NCOP, ANC)
Documents handed out:
Revised Text of S 4(1) and 4(2) of Registrar’s Report on the Yengeni Inquiry as proposed by Mr Cronin [text awaited]
Registrar’s Interim Report with the Revised Text inserted as published on 19 June 2001(See Appendix)
The Committee continued discussion on how minority party views should be included in its Report. The Committee adopted Mr Cronin's proposed amendments reflecting the different positions of the majority and minority. However, the Committee was divided on party lines as to whether minority party Members' names and affiliations should be specified in the text discussing their views. The issue of the declaration of Mr Leon’s wedding gifts was briefly mentioned, but was not dealt with at length.
Mr Mathee informed the Committee that he had requested legal opinions concerning whether, whilst acting on this Committee, Members were free to act as individuals and "vote their conscience", or whether they were bound to act as party members.
Revised Text of the Registrar’s Report of the Yengeni Inquiry
The Chair reviewed the proposed Report and noted that there had been no objections to the section dealing with the background of the matter, nor the history of communications from the Committee and Registrar to Mr Yengeni nor Mr Yengeni’s responses. However, she noted that the "Findings and Recommendations" section had proven contentious, largely due to the alleged lack of inclusion of the minority views.
Mr Cronin (ANC) highlighted that, with respect to the input of Mr Moorcraft (DP), s 4(1) and 4(2) had been revised with regards to the 7 Member minority view. This revision was reflected in the proposed draft that had been distributed to Committee Members.
In summary the revised s 4(2) ( in compliance with the minority view) is as follows :
1. The Committee should proceed directly with its own investigation of the matter.
2. Mr Yengeni has not co-operated thus far with the Committee's investigation, and therefore is in contempt of the Committee.
3. Mr Yengeni should be required to appear before the Committee to explain his position and actions.
Mr Cronin compared this minority view with the majority view, which holds that the Committee is the proper parliamentary forum in which to investigate the allegations. However, in contrast the majority view is that the Committee’s investigation is a "parallel" investigation which should be delayed pending completion of all other investigations into the matter.
A Freedom Front Member agreed that the format of the revised draft was correct, subject to fine-tuning.
Mr Durr (NCOP, ACDP) then suggested that the revision should refer to 7 Members "of 6 opposition parties" for clarity, and should specify that in the majority view there should be no parallel investigation at this point "unless Mr Yengeni wants it". This would clarify that Mr Yengeni has not been deprived of a chance to appear before the committee. In response an ANC Member and Ms Seaton (IFP) stated that this was an unfair textual change, revisiting issues previously discussed and decided upon, and urged adoption of the revised language proposed by Mr Cronin.
Mr Moorcraft (DA) then suggested that the minority Members be identified by name, or by party affiliation.
Mr Cronin observed that since the ANC was under the impression that the minority was in favour of this being a "conscience" vote, it was presumed that identification by party would be unacceptable. He added, however, that he would agree to such identification, which would be preferable to naming the minority Members individually since the meetings were part of public record. His view on the latter point was endorsed by Mr Ntuli (NA, ANC).
Ms Seaton (IFP) expressed concern that her party’s position was not clear in the revised report.
A Freedom Front Member then endorsed inclusion of reference to the minority's party affiliations, but Ms Rajbally [Minority Front] recommended adoption of the revised text without reference to party affiliation.
An ANC Member then stated that he did not favour inclusion of a minority viewpoint at all. Further, while the majority had tried to accommodate the minority, its co-operation was being "stretched" by the insistence that the Report be made to resemble minutes by specifically identifying individuals by name and/or party.
Another Committee Member stipulated that since the Report is to be debated in the parliamentary chambers, there will be ample opportunity for the respective parties' views to be voiced and further made part of the public record.
Mr Moorcraft (DP) then reiterated his belief that minority Members' party interests be reflected in the Report. However, the Committee proceeded to adopt the revised language on s 4(2) as proposed by Mr Cronin, without reference to the minority's parties or names.
With regards to s 4(1), Mr Cronin summarised Mr Moorcraft's position (on behalf of the DA) as being that the DA views Yengeni's explanation of his non-declaration of real estate to the Registrar as unacceptable. Further, the DA wants Yengeni to appear before the Committee to explain the matter. It was also noted that without a personal appearance it will not be possible for the Committee to determine Yengeni's motivation in supplying the prior, unsatisfactory explanation.
This summary was not objected to, and the Committee proceeded to adopt the revised language as proposed by Mr Cronin.
The Chairperson informed the Committee that training would be implemented shortly. Training would most likely be funded by the EU since the Members Support Committee had requested that some funds be set aside for this purpose. This proposal was accepted by the Committee.
Policy in Respect of Wedding Gifts
Ms Seaton (IFP) expressed the view that marriage gifts should not be disclosed. Further, private gifts should not be disclosed. However this would mean that if the wedding reception was sponsored in some manner, this fact would have to be disclosed. She re-iterated that it was unnecessary to disclose private gifts from husbands and wives. Finally she asserted that it was not the intention of the code to insist upon such disclosure and it did not impact upon the work of MPs in Parliament.
Mr Nlheko (ANC) supported Ms Seaton’s point of view.
Mr J Cronin (ANC) commented that the Code of Conduct was not clear on the category of gifts that needed to be disclosed or undisclosed. He said that there could be rare occasions where a Member could receive a "helicopter as a birthday or wedding gift" and that these instances should not be ruled out. Further, he said that if Mr Leon wanted to disclose his gifts then he should be encouraged to do so. Mr Cronin said that it was good practice that members disclose gifts especially where their may be a conflict of interest. He added that if Mr Leon had motivated for giving disclosure, then he should be allowed to do so.
Mr Fihla (ANC) remarked that the main purpose of the code was to protect MPs against corruption. However, he agreed with Ms Seaton that the disclosure of wedding gifts was outside this boundary. He added that some of the Members perform rituals which involve the giving of gifts such as sheep and cattle. He said that it would be unacceptable to declare such gifts in Parliament according to the Code. Further, he suggested that the type of gift be assessed. If it was a gift that was funded or sponsored, then it was necessary to disclose it.
Mr Momberg (ANC) re-iterated that disclosures were made for the purpose of protecting members.
Mr Mushwana (ANC) expressed a concern that no member should toe the party line. He said that this matter was not being considered for the first time. He challenged the committee to consider the disclosure of gifts that have been received on a traditional level and said that his view was that they should not be disclosed before Parliament. He drew the Committee’s attention to a clause in the Code providing that the bona fides of a member would be a determinant factor. He was also against the disclosure of marital gifts as they were personal. His ultimate view was that the committee should further deliberate on this matter after the conclusion of the Workshop.
Mr C Aucamp (AE) adopted a similar view. He read clause 9.2 of the Code which reads thus: "Where any doubt exists as to whether any financial interest must be disclosed the member concerned must act in good faith".
Mr Surty (ANC) said that the fact that the Committee was grappling with the issue of disclosure or non-disclosure of wedding gifts reflected one of the issues that the committee should take into account during its Workshop.
All the members agreed and the meeting was adjourned.
Interim Report of the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members' Interests with regard to the complaint against Mr T S Yengeni MP
1.1 On the basis of a report in the Sunday Times, 25 March 2001, Mr D Gibson, MP lodged a complaint with the Chairperson of the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members' Interests in respect of alleged non-disclosure by Mr T S Yengeni, MP.
1.2 At its meeting on 28 March 2001, the Committee instructed the Registrar to request a response from Mr Yengeni to Mr Gibson's letter of complaint.
2. COMMUNICATION BETWEEN MR YENGENI AND THE OFFICE OF THE REGISTRAR OF MEMBERS' INTERESTS WITH REGARD TO THE COMPLAINT
2.1 The Registrar, as instructed by the Committee, sent a letter to Mr Yengeni on 30 March 2001.
2.2 Mr Yengeni responded on 6 April 2001. In his response to the Registrar, Mr Yengeni questioned whether the relevant rules and procedures had been followed.
2.3 In consultation with the Chairperson and on the basis of legal opinion obtained from the Chief Parliamentary Law Adviser, a second letter, dated 10 April 2001, was sent to Mr Yengeni informing him that the letter of the 30 March 2001 was sent on the instruction of the Committee and that he is required to respond.
2.4 On 10 April 2001 the Registrar received a letter from Mr Yengeni's personal assistant indicating that Mr Yengeni would only be in a position to respond after 2 May 2001 as Parliament was in recess.
2.5 The Registrar subsequently received a response from Mr Yengeni on 18 April 2001. Mr. Yengeni responded to the questions on the allegation of non-disclosure of a benefit that he received in respect of his motor vehicle and secondly the non-disclosure of his home in Tigerhof.
2.6 Mr Yengeni indicated that he had disclosed his home in 1996 and that his understanding of the rules was that a once off disclosure was sufficient. With regard to the motor vehicle Mr Yengeni stated that the vehicle was legitimately purchased and that its acquisition did not in any way amount to a gift or donation and therefore there was no need for disclosure.
3. CONTENT OF THE COMPLAINT
The complaint submitted by Mr Gibson raised the following matters:
3.1 That Mr Yengeni did not disclose erf 18250 Cape Town.
3.2 With regard to motor vehicle CA 80233, that the licensing application indicates that Stannic was the financier and that Mr Yengeni appears to have received free use of a motor vehicle for a period of seven months and that the benefit was not disclosed.
3.3 That the Committee should consider whether it is appropriate for the Chairperson of the Defence Committee to enter into an agreement with a company that either itself or whose affiliates are or were involved in tendering for arms or sub-contracts.
4. FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
4.1 In respect of the alleged non-disclosure of erf 18250 Cape Town.
4.2 Five members of the Committee were of the view that -
(a) Mr Yengeni's explanation was not sufficient for them to determine the facts; and
(b) Mr Yengeni therefore should be required to appear at this point before the Committee to give an explanation of the alleged non-disclosure concerning the acquisition of the motor vehicle.
4.3 The majority view was -
(a) Mr Yengeni did not comply with the Code;
(b) Mr Yengeni's non-compliance was not mala fide.
4.4 Accordingly the Committee recommends that Mr Yengeni must submit the details of erf 18250 to the Registrar by 31 May 2001.
The Committee voted 24 in favour of the majority decision with 5 against.
4.5 In respect of the alleged non-disclosure of the benefit of motor vehicle CA 80233 as well as the appropriateness of the Chairperson of the Defence Committee entering into an agreement with a company that either itself or whose affiliates are or were involved in tendering for arms or sub-contracts. The Committee deliberated at length on these matters.
4.6 The view of seven members of the Committee was that -
(a) the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members' Interests should proceed directly with its own investigation of these matters;
(b) Mr Yengeni is refusing to cooperate with the Committee, and this constitutes contempt of the Committee;
(c) Mr Yengeni should be required to appear at this point before the Committee to give an explanation of the facts concerning the acquisition of the motor vehicle.
4.7 A majority view -
(a) noted that the allegations contained in the Sunday Times, 25 March 2001, were made in the context of the Strategic Defence Procurement Process;
(b) further noted that on 2 November 2000 the National Assembly accepted the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts that a forensic investigation be conducted into allegations of impropriety in relation to this process;
(c) further noted the report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, tabled in and adopted by the National Assembly on 4 April 2001, that such an investigation is being co-ordinated by the Office of the Auditor-General and comprises the Office of the Public Protector and the Investigating Directorate for Serious Economic Offences in the Office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions;
(d) believes that the subject matter of the complaint falls within the scope and ambit of the above investigation and that a separate investigation by the Committee would traverse the same issues. Therefore a parallel investigation, at this point, into these matters is not desirable.
Accordingly, the Committee in respect of the above two matters, recommends that Parliament should await the report of the joint investigating team, the Committee should consider the report in order to proceed with the complaint.
The Committee voted twenty-two in favour of the majority view with seven against.
The report is tabled for consideration by the National Assembly.
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