ATC230907: Report of the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests on the Alleged Contravention of the Code Of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Members’ Interests: Honourable Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, MP- Speaker of the National Assembly
Report of the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests on the Alleged Contravention of the Code Of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Members’ Interests: Honourable Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, MP- Speaker of the National Assembly
The Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests having considered the complaint against the Speaker of the National Assembly, Honourable Mapisa-Nqakula, MP, reports as follows.
On 5 June 2023 the suspended Public Protector, Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane (“the Complainant”) submitted a complaint against the Speaker of the National Assembly, Honourable Mapisa-Nqakula, MP (“the Member”) to the Office of the Registrar of Members’ Interests. The Complainant alleges that the Member breached the Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Members’ Interests (“the Code”).
SUMMARY OF THE COMPLAINT
The Complainant states that she directed a letter to the Member dated 23 May 2023 requesting a meeting. Essentially the letter requests a meeting with the Member so that the Complainant can inform the Member of -
“Very sensitive information regarding serious allegations of corruption on the part of senior members of the National Assembly and/or the Committee itself…” and to “seek your guidance as to the way forward in respect of the referral thereof for any possible investigations at the level of Parliament.”.
The letter indicated that the above was in the context of the section 194 enquiry.
The Complainant writes that she requested that the Member treat the matter “in the strictest confidence” until such time as the proposed meeting could take place. However, on 24 May 2023, the Member replied and declined the meeting request. The Member directed the Complainant to submit a complainant with the Acting Registrar of Members’ Interests, Adv A Gordon, in terms of the Code. The Complainant alleges that the Member then directed the Spokesperson for Parliament, Mr Moloto Mathapo, to issue a public statement that disclosed the content of the correspondence between the Complainant and the Member.
The Complainant states that in the interim the police had leaked the case to a media journalist, and the story of the alleged corruption was published in the Sunday Independent on Sunday 28 May 2023.
After receiving the letter from the Member dated 24 Mat 2023, the Complainant directed a complaint to the Acting Registrar. The Complaint alleges that the Member breached her duties in respect of the matters set out below.
- Turning down a legitimate meeting request by a whistleblower (the Complainant) in respect of serious allegations of corruption in the institution of which she is the constitutional head.
- Disclosing the identity of a whistleblower as well as the content of the disclosure. This was done without obtaining the permission of the whistleblower and thereby exposing the whistleblower to potential danger and jeopardising any investigation.
- That the Member unfairly advantaged the implicated members, who are members of the political party of the Member and thereby displaying actual or a reasonable apprehension of bias.
- That the Member made herself an accomplice to the contraventions that the Complainant referred to in respect of the Members of Parliament who are allegedly implicated in the corruption matter.
The Complainant further alleges that the Member breached item 4.1 of the Code. The Complainant also requests that the Acting Registrar should determine any further contravention in terms of item 3.2 of the Code.
The above-mentioned complaint against the Member is lodged in the context of the complaint lodged by the Complainant against a former Member of Parliament, the late Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson, and 2 current Members of Parliament, Hon Pemmy Majodina, MP and Hon Richard Qubudile Dyantyi, MP.
RESPONSE BY THE MEMBER
The Member was given an opportunity to respond and did so on 08 June 2023.
The Member acknowledges that she received a letter dated 23 May 2023 from the Complainant requesting a meeting. That in reply to the request and on the advice of the National Assembly Table staff, the Chief Parliamentary Legal Adviser and the staff at the Constitutional and Legal Service Office, she declined the request to meet. She informed the Complainant on 24 May 2023 of the fact that her meeting request was declined.
The Member indicates that she informed the Complainant that she should direct her complaint to the Acting Registrar of Members’ Interests because the Complainant requested guidance on the way forward in respect of the allegations for any possible investigations by Parliament. She was informed that the matter fell within the purview of the Joint of Committee of Ethics and Members’ Interests who is required to keep the content of her complaint confidential. On Sunday 29 May 2023 the Member received a letter from the Complainant wherein she acknowledged the guidance given by the Member and that she will lodge a complaint with the Acting Registrar. The Complainant expressed her dissatisfaction that the Member declined her meeting request.
The Member indicates that from the evening of 27 May 2023 a journalist named Mzilikazi Wa Afrika used his twitter feed to make the content of the complaint that was lodged with the Sout African Police Services (SAPS) public. As the twitter feed gained momentum on social media platforms, media requests were directed to Mr. Mothapo, the Spokesperson for Parliament. Mr. Mothapo released a media statement on 28 May 2023 in response to the media enquiry.
The media statement does not deal with any specifics. It merely confirms that the Member directed the Complainant to the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests and that the Committee is compelled in terms of the Code, to keep the matter confidential and that the Member did not meet with the Complainant.
Item 4 of the Code provides as follows:
4.1 A Member must:
4.1.1 abide by the principles, rules and obligations of this Code;
4.1.2 by virtue of the oath or affirmation of allegiance taken by all the elected Members, uphold the law;
4.1.3 act on all occasions in accordance with the public trust placed in them;
4.1.4 discharge their obligations, in terms of the Constitution, to Parliament and the public at large, by placing the public interest above their own interests;
4.1.5 maintain public confidence and trust in the integrity of Parliament and thereby engender the respect and confidence that society needs to have in Parliament as a representative institution; and
4.1.6 in the performance of their duties and responsibilities, be committed to the eradication of all forms of discrimination.
The Complainant alleges that the Member disclosed her identity as a whistleblower and the content of the disclosure. The Committee noted that the letter of 23 May 2023 does not provide any detail. The names of the Members of Parliament who were allegedly implicated in the bribery/corruption allegations was not mentioned in the letter. The political affiliation of the Members of the Parliament is also not disclosed. The Members are referred to as “senior members of the National Assembly”. This meant that it could have been members of any political party that is represented in the National Assembly. The Member could therefore not have disclosed the content any “disclosure” because there was no detail in the letter.
The Complainant asked for guidance on what to do at the level of Parliament. The Member provided the requested guidance within one day of the request, that is, on the 24th May 2023. The requested guidance included the fact that the Member was not the person to meet with in respect of allegations of bribery and/or corruption as this fell within the purview of the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests and the Registrar of Members’ Interests.
The Complainant alleges that the Member gave her political party members unfair advantage thus displaying actual or a reasonable apprehension of bias. The identity of the implicated Members of Parliament was not disclosed by the Complainant in her letter dated 23 May 2023. Therefore, the Member could not have displayed any bias because she did not know the names of the Members of Parliament that the Complainant was referring to. The names of the Members of Parliament were made public via a twitter feed which was released by the journalist Mzilikazi Wa Afrika on 27 May 2023, three days after the Member replied to the Complainant.
The Committee further noted that the Complainant stated in her affidavit that the complaint made by Mr Skosana to the SAPS was leaked to the media, and it was published in the Sunday Independent on Sunday 28 May 2023. The Complainant therefore categorically identified that the detail given to SAPS, formed the content of the media release. The detail of her intended complaint was made public by SAPS and not by the Member. The Spokesperson for Parliament responded to media enquiries on the matter after it became public knowledge via a twitter feed.
The Committee found that the complaint is unfounded and that the Speaker of the National Assembly, Honourable Mapisa-Nqakula, MP did not breach the Code.
REPORTED FOR INFORMATION
THE CO-CHAIRPERSONS OF THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON ETHICS AND MEMBERS’ INTERESTS: LYDIA MOSHODI AND BEKIZWE NKOSI