The chairman and registrar of parliament’s joint portfolio committee on ethics and members’ interests say they were threatened with harm while conducting their investigation into the conduct of former communications minister Dina Pule.
On Wednesday, a multiparty panel appointed by the committee released its report, which paints a damning picture of the former minister’s behaviour. She was sacked from president Jacob Zuma’s cabinet last month.
The committee handed down the harshest penalties it could on Pule and recommended further investigation by the police and the National Prosecuting Authority.
The panel’s report has revealed that during the investigations, committee co-chair and ANC MP Ben Turok and committee registrar Fazela Mahomed were alerted to threats of harm against them. It’s not known who made the threats.
“The panel was informed that parliament’s head of security services and management had received information of a threat to harm the chairperson of the panel and registrar and to disrupt the proceedings of the panel,” the report says. “These threats were reported to the authorities and appropriate measures were taken to safeguard the work of the panel and its personnel.”
Turok tells TechCentral that parliament’s security officials received information that the committee’s processes would be disrupted and that “the registrar and myself were going to be targeted”.
As a result, both Turok and Mahomed were each assigned a security detail by the parliamentary protection service.
According to Turok, Pule’s partner, businessman Phosane Mngqibisa — who the committee found benefited improperly from last year’s ICT Indaba organised by the department of communications — was accompanied by a bodyguard to one of the early hearings.
Although the bodyguard was made to wait outside the room where the hearings were taking place, his mere presence was against parliamentary protocol, Turok says.
“This man stood outside the room in which we were having our hearings, but strictly speaking he should not have been allowed in parliament at all. I don’t know what pretext he came in under, or if he was armed, but as committee chair I was told he was outside the door and I was told he was the bodyguard of a witness, Mr Mngqibisa.
“We were unhappy about that, but we were so busy with the investigation that we didn’t follow it up. So when this other thing pops up, we link one and two,” Turok says. “There’s something unsavoury about it.”
TechCentral was unable to reach Mngqibisa on his mobile phone on Thursday.
“The police have been involved at quite a high level and the speaker of parliament knows about it,” Turok says. “We expect that someone will be investigating the basis for all of this, but it has been taken quite seriously.”
He adds that he is less concerned about his personal safety and far more about the threat of interference with the “legitimate processes” of parliament. “Any threat to disrupt a formal procedure in parliament is to be examined very carefully.”
Turok and Mahomed continue to be accompanied by members of the parliamentary protection service.
He says the South African Police Service in the Western Cape branch is also involved in the matter. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media