Sorry state of affairs — Mosebenzi Zwane fails to appear in House to apologise for State Capture malfeasance
ANC MP Mosebenzi Zwane, the former mineral resources minister of the Jacob Zuma administration, cocked a snook at Parliament on Tuesday and skipped the sitting where his apology for State Capture-related malfeasance was expected.
It wasn’t as if ANC MP Mosebenzi Zwane didn’t know he was expected in the House. “He was duly informed by me to be present in the House,” ANC Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina told Tuesday’s sitting after it was clear he wasn’t around, neither in person in the Good Hope Chamber nor online.
At worst, this signals flippancy, and factional fissures in the ANC parliamentary caucus; at best, a lukewarm attitude towards dealing with corruption and State Capture.
It took seven weeks for the Order Paper to include the early March joint ethics and members’ interests committee report. That committee found Zwane had breached public trust — the first time an MP has been found guilty of this — and recommended that he be suspended from the House for a full parliamentary term. The usual penalty for breaching Parliament’s code of conduct is a maximum of one month.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Joint ethics committee throws the book at Mosebenzi Zwane over Gupta links, travel and coal mine
The committee’s report, which arose from complaints in 2017 and also took in the Zondo Commission report, stipulated that Zwane must apologise for the State Capture-related sale of the Optimum coal mine to Tegeta Exploration and Resources, and his ministerial appointment of Gupta-associated businessmen. However, no reprimand was recommended.
No opportunity for political potshots
On Tuesday’s Order Paper, the report into Zwane was set up to be gentle. There was no introduction from the podium to outline ethics proceedings, as the report was taken as read, no debate and no declarations. No opportunity for political potshots.
And yet Zwane did not attend — in contravention of his chief whip’s instruction.
This stands in stark contrast to how the House on 20 August 2013 handled the joint ethics committee findings against ex-communications minister Dina Pule, found guilty of facilitating her romantic partner access to a R6-million tender for an ICT Indaba.
The then ethics committee co-chairperson, Ben Turok, spelt out the impact of Pule’s actions, what the committee had done, including days of hearings, and the sanctions: 15 days’ suspension from the House, a fine equivalent to a month’s salary, a reprimand and an apology.
Pule sat in the parliamentary backbenches and, reprimanded, stood up to apologise. Hugs from fellow ANC MPs followed. Today Pule is chairperson of the ANC National Executive Committee subcommittee for organisation and membership.
On Tuesday, curiously, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula seemed to gloss over Zwane’s absence and failure to apologise.
“I note that Honourable Zwane is not here this afternoon. However, I do want to inform the House that the penalties will be implemented and the House will be informed at the appropriate time.”
With this ruling, the door seems open for a written apology via the Speaker’s Office to be deemed sufficient.
Tuesday’s occurrences around Zwane again showcase not only Parliament’s, but official fudginess around State Capture, the Zondo Commission report and recommendations, and continuing institutionally embedded corruption.
It remains to be seen what, if any, steps the parliamentary joint ethics committee takes against other parliamentarians named in the Zondo Commission report as far back as March 2022. This includes Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Zizi Kodwa, who has dismissed being “beholden” to EOH businessman Jehan Mackay over a loan, as the Zondo Commission found, and ANC parliamentarians Winnie Ngwenya and House Chairperson of Committees Cedric Frolick, who have denied receiving money from Bosasa.
Read more in Daily Maverick: State Capture: Parliament to deal fully with named MPs only after Ramaphosa tables final report.
Deputy Defence Minister Thabang Makwetla, named in the Zondo Commission report, was sanctioned in March 2019 for not disclosing Bosasa-linked security upgrades, which he said he had repaid.
No action will be taken against Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, named in the Zondo Commission report for receiving Bosasa-installed home security, because this happened while he was still ANC secretary-general, and thus not subject to the parliamentary code of conduct.
The same applies to Zwane for his role as Free State agriculture MEC in the R280-million Vrede dairy farm corruption scandal for which he’s on trial.
Mantashe and Kodwa have said they will take the Zondo Commission report on review.
Tuesday’s adoption of the joint ethics committee’s guilty verdict and sanctions in the National Assembly, despite the shortcomings, was the first, and to date only, concrete step Parliament has taken regarding State Capture and the Zondo Commission recommendations.
Recently, the rules committee found that measures such as tightening up on ministerial attendance and replies were under way. The Zondo Commission’s recommendation on opposition MPs chairing committees was rejected. Kicked for touch, possibly to the post-2024 election Parliament, was a political hot potato — an oversight committee for the Presidency, where powers are being concentrated — from intelligence, infrastructure and investment, to structural reform facilitation and red tape reduction.
When the National Assembly holds Budget Vote 1 on 31 May — the Presidency has a R600-million allocation — MPs will vote without having scrutinised the rands and cents. Again. DM