AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Open vote on Mkhwebane expected while ethics committee clears 194 Inquiry chair and ANC Chief Whip
With the unexpected death of ANC MP Tina Joemat-Pettersson on 5 June, husband and wife duo David Skosana and Busisiwe Mkhwebane lost their final trump card.
On 7 September, Parliament’s Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests cleared ANC MP Qubudile Dyantyi, stating accusations he had sought a bribe were “unfounded”.
Dyantyi, who chaired the 194 Inquiry into the suspended Public Protector’s fitness to hold office, and ANC Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina, were drawn into the sordid saga shortly before ANC MP Tina Joemat-Petterson’s death.
Whatever it was the former minister had been discussing with suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebana’s husband, David Skosana, there was no evidence that Dyantyi or Majodina had been on the take in order to “swing the vote” with regard to Mkhwebane’s removal from office.
Between 16 March and 6 May, Skosana and Joemat-Pettersson had exchanged about 100 messages, none of which had named any of the officials Skosana had sought to implicate.
Dyantyi responded to the findings saying he had been “vindicated” and that he had stated clearly that the allegations had held no merit and had been “merely an attempt to derail the Section 194 process”.
The National Assembly is due to vote on Mhhwebane’s fate on Monday, 11 September. On Thursday, Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula turned down a request by the African Transformation Movement and the United Democratic Movement for a secret ballot.
Parliament’s spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said that the speaker had “considered the prevailing atmosphere in the assembly and South Africa, finding it is not toxic or highly charged to warrant a secret ballot”.
Closed voting would “deprive citizens, who have a significant public interest in the matter, from identifying their representatives’ position and holding them accountable”, he added.
WhatsApp messages, released by Mkhwebane and Skosana at a press conference on 14 June after Joemat-Pettersson’s death, reveal the pressure the ANC veteran had been under.
On 5 April 2023, Skosana had threatened to “out” Joemat-Pettersson in a message sent at 13:23 that afternoon.
“Unfortunately I have to mention you,” Skosana announced.
It marked a turning point for Joemat-Pettersson, who died two months later and two days after she had been informed by the Sunday World that her messages and voice notes had been shared with the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) and were now in the public domain.
At the time, Joemat-Petterrson said she had welcomed a police investigation into the allegations of bribery but must have been aware of the tsunami that was about to break over her.
“I am very sorry you want to destroy me because of your anger,” Joemat-Pettersson wrote to Skosana.
When Skosana promised not to “destroy” her, she responded emphatically, “YES you will.”
It was Dyantyi’s instruction on 4 April during a committee meeting for Mkhwebane to be “muted” that had roused Skosana’s ire.
Mkhwebane had been sharply rebuked by Dyantyi when she tried to address committee members after “withdrawing” from the process because of legal woes.
Dyantyi snapped at Mkhwebane that “the evidence leaders are addressing committee members, not you”.
“Just mute her! It’s a committee meeting. You are completely out of order and I’m not going to take that attitude from you,” Dyantyi said to Mkhwebane, clearly a red rag to Skosana.
Joemat-Petterson’s response to Skosana’s threat to expose her was that this was “sad”.
To which Skosana had replied, “very sad as your person [Dyantyi] is continuing with his nonsense unabated”.
According to Dyantyi, the Ethics Committee had noted that Skosana’s version of events to the South African Police Service (SAPS), which formed the basis of the complaint, had not mentioned him and neither had the audio recordings.
There was also “missing” evidence and what had been made public might not have been “a true reflection of the communication between the late Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson and Mr Skosana”, the committee found.
The cause of the 55-year-old Joemat-Pettersson’s death has still not been officially announced. She was found dead at her home in Rondebosch, Cape Town, and her unexpected departure scuppered Mkhwebane and Skosana’s plan to collapse the inquiry.
However, the Section 194 Inquiry, at the end of its work, agreed with a finding by an independent panel that there was sufficient evidence to indicate incompetence and misconduct on Mkhwebane’s part.
“After considering its findings, the committee resolved to recommend to the National Assembly (NA) that she be removed from office. The committee’s report is due to be debated and voted on in the NA on Monday, 11 September 2023,” it has been announced.
While Mkhwebane attempted to return to her offices last week, claiming the removal-from-office process to be over and illegal anyway, it will only be over when the NA sings. That will be in the course of this week. DM