The department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) paid for Minister Des van Rooyen’s legal costs to interdict former public protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report.
This was confirmed on Monday by the minister in a written parliamentary response to a question posed by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP Zolile Xalisa, who wanted to know who had paid for Van Rooyen’s two legal bids in October to halt the release of the controversial report that implicated him along with President Jacob Zuma, several Cabinet officials and the Gupta family in improper conduct.
“[Did his department pay] for his legal fees to interdict the release of the State of Capture report by the former Public Protector, Ms Thuli Madonsela. If so, how does this fall within his department’s mandate?” Xalisa asked.
Van Rooyen said in a one-line response without revealing the cost of his legal action: “Yes, the allegations were levelled against the minister’s appointment and not in his private capacity.”
The 355-document also included details of Van Rooyen’s numerous visits to the Guptas’ Saxonwold compound in Johannesburg before he was appointed finance minister by Zuma on December 9, 2015, replacing respected former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene.
He was subsequently removed from the post and moved to Cogta after public pressure mounted on the president to reappoint Pravin Gordhan to head National Treasury again.
Madonsela’s report was released on November 2, 2016, after Zuma abandoned his court bid to interdict its release. Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, also implicated in the document, failed in his legal attempts to block its release.
In her remedial action, Madonsela recommended that the president establish a judicial inquiry to investigate allegations contained in her report to be headed by a judge solely selected by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. However, on Friday, Zuma filed court papers to review the report and set aside its remedial action.
Van Rooyen was also quizzed about his adviser, Ian Whitley, and Trillian Capital Partners CEO Eric Wood by Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Kevin Mileham, who wanted to know if the minister had had any discussions with both men regarding the use of municipal assets to secure debt financing before or after his appointment to the finance and Cogta ministries.
“If not, what is the position in this regard; if so, what was the nature of each discussion, and why did he have discussions with the specified persons?” Mileham asked.
Van Rooyen refused to answer the questions or make a statement on the matter.
“The honourable member is kindly advised that this matter is subjudice,” he responded briefly.
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Last month, Sunday Times reported that two days into his four-day stint as finance minister, Van Rooyen’s newly appointed advisory team reportedly took it upon itself to share confidential Treasury information with close associates of the Gupta family.
The paper said it had seen “shocking details” in a “string of emails” indicating how the minister’s advisers, Whitley and Mohamed Bobat, were trying to take over Treasury “almost immediately”.
Whitley is ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte’s son-in-law.