State Attorney threatens to report evidence leader in Eskom inquiry to bar council
The State Attorney acting on behalf of Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has threatened to report the evidence leader of the parliamentary inquiry into state capture‚ Nthuthuzelo Vanara‚ to the General Council of the Bar if he fails to respond to the attorney's letter complaining about the way the inquiry is being conducted.
Vanara has already responded to the letter which was the subject of discussion by the public enterprises committee - which is conducting the inquiry - at the end of proceedings on Wednesday.
Vanara has told the State Attorney that the allegations were without any merit and were rejected with the contempt they deserved. He has also said he has told the State Attorney to go ahead and lay a complaint with the General Council of the Bar.
The minister and Deputy Public Enterprises Minister Ben Martins have complained about what they say has been the procedural unfairness of the inquiry because testimony about third parties who were not present without hearing their version of events.
The committee has stressed that those implicated will be given an opportunity to respond and MPs emphasised that they would not be intimidated.
Following the receipt of the State Attorney's complaints Parliament sought the legal opinion of senior counsel Wim Trengove. Even before the inquiry got under way Brown had written letters to the committee expressing concerns over the manner in which it would be conducted.
In his opinion Trengove said that Parliament was entitled to determine its own processes‚ proceedings and working arrangements in fulfilment of its duty to hold the executive to account. The law confers a wide mandate on parliamentary committees to undertake investigations and public hearings‚ Trengove said.
The inquiry was clearly inquisitorial and not accusatorial‚ Trengove said‚ and could proceed even if other legal processes were underway at the same time. The committee was also entitled to have regard to the leaked Gupta emails and decide what weight to attach to them.
Trengove stressed that everyone against whom the committee reached an adverse finding should be given the right of reply.
The minister also raised the question of whether former finance minister Pravin Gordhan was not subject to a conflict of interest. Trengove said it was not necessary for him to recuse himself.
Counsel also found that Vanara was not conflicted in being both registrar of Parliament and evidence leader.