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Since the news broke of the letter written to me by Mr Mervyn Dirks, there has been a series of baseless speculations on the matter, and undue aspersions cast.
I have therefore decided to clarify the aspects which warrant explanation to set the record straight:
On 22 December 2021, I received an email correspondence from Mr Dirks wherein, based on an audio recording of the President of the Republic addressing the African National Congress’s National Executive Committee meeting, made remarks that warranted SCOPA in Mr Dirks’ view to summons the President.
I acknowledged receipt of Mr Dirks’ email correspondence and agreed with him that the matter was serious and would receive the attention of the committee at the earliest possible convenience in January 2022 when Parliament resumed its work.
I accordingly advised the Chair of Chairs, Mr Cedric Frolick, about the correspondence, and there was agreement that the matter would receive attention in January 2022.
During the recess period I directed the SCOPA staff to begin gathering information to ensure that I could adequately and properly brief Members of the committee about this matter because without a doubt its seriousness was vivid.
The work referred to in 4 above included engaging with Parliament’s Legal Services and a sound legal opinion has already been finalized and is due to be tabled to the committee.
Therefore, when the news of Mr Dirks’ letter broke in January it was not news to us, and precisely for this reason it was deemed prudent to not throw the committee into the fray of the media campaign on this matter as it had quickly become a deliberate subject of speculation and assumption and politicking expressly devoid of basic understanding of Parliamentary processes.
On 14 and 15 January 2022, I briefed the political parties represented in the committee on the matters and issued a memorandum on 18 January 2022 to the committee wherein I informed it that, having considered Mr Dirks’ correspondence, I had found the matter serious and therefore I had determined that:
"Consistent with our established practice as the committee, that wherein a Member of Parliament petitions the committee on a matter related to public accounts in any material aspect, the committee affords that Member an opportunity to address the committee to enable it to make an informed decision on the way forward. A special committee meeting is hereby scheduled for Friday, 21 January 2022 at 10H00 on the Zoom Virtual Platform for Hon M Dirks MP to address the committee."
It was also pointed out on 18 January 2022 that this special meeting is subject to the approval of the Presiding Officers of the National Assembly noting that Parliament is currently in recess, and if approval is not granted, Hon Dirks will be afforded an opportunity to make representations to the committee at an available opportunity once Parliament resumes for the 2022 session.
The application for the special meeting was not granted on the basis that the date fell on a constituency day, and accordingly, the meeting will now be convened on Tuesday, 25 January 2022 at 16H00.
Having traversed the timeline and sequence of events above, I wish to say the following:
The committee does not draw into party political activities and/or factions and therefore due regard is given to avoid polarizing the committee whose work , whilst is in the political space, it must rise above party political divides and pay particular attention to the Rules of the National Assembly, the Constitution and applicable legislation to our work. The matter brought before me by Mr Dirks, and being processed towards the committee, does fall within the ambit of matters which deserve our attention.
The reported suspension of Mr Dirks has no material bearing on the matter at this point because the committee reserves the right to invite or summons any person to appear before it to provide information, evidence, or representation.
Furthermore, a withdrawal of the letter if it were to arise does not conclude the matter without due process as a report would still be required of the committee.
The matter is now a subject of parliamentary process and the committee is seized with it and will take decisions it deems fit, necessary and appropriate.
The burden of responsibility that saddles the committee is one of due process to ensure parliamentary oversight and accountability. Notwithstanding the associated politics the committee will, as it currently does, conduct its work with integrity and comply with the rules of Parliament.
Issued by the Parliamentary Communication Services on behalf of the Chairperson of Scopa, Mkhuleko Hlengwa