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DA: John Steenhuisen says speaker undermines Public Protector investigation by referring Mahlobo to powers and privileges

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DA: John Steenhuisen says speaker undermines Public Protector investigation by referring Mahlobo to powers and privileges

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State Security Minister David Mahlobo

31st January 2017

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The DA takes note and objects to the Speaker of Parliament referring the Minister of State Security, David Mahlobo, to the Powers and Privileges Committee for deliberately misleading the House. I have made the Speaker aware of the fact that the DA has referred Mahlobo’s misconduct to the Public Protector, who is the only one who should investigate this matter in terms of law. Any attempt to have a parliamentary committee do so instead would undermine the Public Protector’s investigation and may help Mahlobo avoid accountability for violating the Executive Ethics Code.

The matter under investigation relates to an incident on 16 November 2016 when Mahlobo, responding to an oral question from DA MP, Prof Belinda Bozzoli, stated that #feesmustfall student leader and criminally accused, Mcebo Dlamini, has never been to his home. Mahlobo stated: “The meeting never took place. Mcebo Dlamini has not been in my house.” His response contradicted a declaration he made only two days prior, during a recorded panel discussion hosted by the Institute for Security Studies, when he said: “And I happen to know Mcebo [Dlamini]. He has been to my house several times.”

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Blowing the whistle on Mahlobo’s bald-faced lie, my deputy, Mike Waters MP, referred the matter to the Public Protector on 17 November 2016 for an urgent investigation into the breach of the Executive Ethics Code. Indeed, this was the correct course of action as section 2.3 (a) of the Code states that Members of the Executive may not “wilfully mislead the legislature to which they are accountable”. Section 3(1) of the Executive Members Ethics Act (Act 82 of 1998) requires the Public Protector to investigate any alleged breach of ethics on receipt of a complaint, and section 3(2) of the same requires the Public Protector to submit a report on the alleged breach of the Code within 30 days after receipt of a complaint.

We have since received confirmation from the Public Protector’s office that an investigation into Mahlobo’s misconduct is underway. However, an extension has been sought as the minister is yet to respond to the allegations.

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We appeal to the Speaker to withdraw her referral of this matter to the Powers and Privileges Committee. Besides incorrectly relying on Rule 194, which actually relates to the “implementation of policy”, the rules of the Powers and Privileges Committee only allow for the consideration of “matter[s] … relating to contempt of Parliament by a member”. Although we have little doubt that Mahlobo holds the National Assembly in contempt, we believe he made himself guilty of a more serious breach when he deliberately misled the House on 16 November 2016.

We cannot allow the Powers and Privileges Committee to fudge this important matter, especially amid a growing trend of members of the Executive lying to the House. It is neither within the Powers and Privileges Committee’s remit nor is the committee empowered to recommend an appropriate penalty. It is now up to the new Public Protector to take Mahlobo to task as a reminder that the Executive is accountable to the legislature and that lying to the House has consequences.

 

Issued by DA

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