Zukiswa Rantho, the ANC whip for portfolio committee on public enterprises, will continue chairing the state capture inquiry despite Lungi Mnganga-Gcabashe’s recent appointment as chairperson of the committee.
Last week ANC caucus in parliament issued a press statement announcing Mnganga-Gcabashe’s appointment to replace Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba, who is now the deputy minister of public service and administration.
The move drew widespread condemnation from opposition parties and political analysts, who argued that this was the ruling party’s attempt to muffle progress and appoint a lame duck chairperson who will protect ministers and state-owned entities’ boards of directors and managers implicated in state capture allegations.
After publicly declaring she would rake Public Service and Administration Minister Faith Muthambi over the coals for allegedly flying 30 close associates, many of them from Limpopo, into Cape Town, and accommodated at pricey sea-facing hotels at a cost of R500 000, former ANC MP and ex-chair public service and administration committee Dr Makhosi Khoza faced internal revolt from ANC MPs.
During a scheduled meeting with the departmental managers and Muthambi, who failed to arrive at the meeting, ANC MPs on the committee stayed away and Khoza found herself chairing a committee of opposition MPs, as she was only joined by Mnyamezeli Boo.
Khoza was subsequently sacked from the committee a few days after the botched meeting. A few weeks later, Khoza resigned from Parliament and renounced her ANC membership.
Rantho confirmed to The Citizen she would only see the inquiry to the end, while Mnganga-Gcabashe will chair the rest of committee work.
“It was an informal decision taken by caucus. It is an internal arrangement. It [the internal arrangement] was taken on Tuesday [24 Oct] and communicated to me by the Chief Whip [Jackson Mthembu]. He personally came to inform me the caucus has resolved that I continue chairing the inquiry.
“I am not going to be a chairperson with full powers, I am a whip. The reason for this arrangement is that the chairperson does not know the issues involved. I was leading the inquiry [so it was decided] I must continue,” Rantho explained.
The former acting chairperson dismissed speculation that the inquiry was halted due to internal squabbles in the party. It was been widely reported the 246-strong ANC caucus was split between pro- and anti-Zuma MPs.
The Zuma faction, rumoured to have the upper hand in most debates and understood to regularly shoot down Mthembu’s rulings, is also believed to have called for harsh penalties for those who supported the opposition during the motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma.
The same group of MPs allegedly pushed through a resolution to gag the planned inquiry into the public protector’s fitness to hold office.
“I communicated the reason during the inquiry itself when I was about to adjourn the meeting [last Friday]. We [public enterprises committee] stopped everything including tabling of annual reports of entities. We also were not able to fully engage with entities,” Rantho said as she explained the week’s adjournment was to enable the committee to play catch-up on outstanding work.
The five days’ respite seems to have achieved very little by way of clearing the backlog. Rantho said the very same entities being probed in the inquiry did not appear this week. Consequently, she said the committee resolved to rely solely on the submission it received from the department of public enterprises.
“We did not call them [ESKOM, SAFCOL, Alexcor, Transnet, Denel and SA Express] because it was decided that it was going to be a short period for them to present. We said let us take what DPE and what AG has presented to us and develop a recommendation out of it.
“After we have received budget review recommendations, we look at what happened during the year and after that we will process it through processes,” Rantho said.
South African Airways (SAA) was handed to National Treasury a few years back during Pravin Gordhan’s tenure to mitigate against a complete financial meltdown but its subsidiary, SA Express, remains accountable to Rantho’s committee.
‘The inquiry will continue next week.’
She expressed pessimism on whether the entity will be handed back to the committee in the near future, saying she can only predict that this could perhaps occur during the next administration after 2019 elections.
“The inquiry will continue next week. We will engage witnesses, some want to be public [their submissions], and some want it to be in camera. We want to protect those who choose to to do. We will give them [witnesses] enough time to submit. We might have to ask Parliament to extend the time we have been given.
“When the [Parliamentary]sessions don’t require us to be there for tabling of bills and voting we will ask to be allowed to proceed with the inquiry. If we are required to be in the House, we will adjourn and attend the proceedings and resume with our work once are excused from the House,” she told The Citizen in a telephonic interview.
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