No answers from ministers on Eskom nor car splurge
The boardroom shenanigans at Eskom appear to be taking their toll on public enterprises minister Lynne Brown‚ who on Wednesday excused herself from answering questions related to governance issues at Eskom and her alleged close relationship with the controversial Gupta family.
Brown was due to answer questions related to the alleged capture of Eskom from DA MP Natasha Mazzone and EFF's Natasha Ntlangwini.
The questions stood over from a similar session held last week as Brown was at the time appearing before the parliamentary inquiry on the capture of Eskom.
But the questions were put back on the agenda of the national assembly by Speaker Baleka Mbete in terms of the rules of the house.
Brown's spokesman‚ Colin Cruywagen‚ has confirmed that the minister did excuse herself from Wednesday's questions and answers session owing to illness‚ but declined to comment further.
However‚ well-placed sources in the department of public enterprises have said that Brown has been acting on the advice of her doctors since November 8 when she was initially booked off.
The sources said Brown forced herself out of bed to testify before the Eskom inquiry last week last week against the advice of her doctors. "The minister felt that it would have created an impression that she was running away if she did not appear last week‚" said one of the sources.
At the beginning of the session on Wednesday‚ Mbete announced that Brown had written to her indicating that she had been booked off until December 14.
As a result‚ questions regarding the Public Enterprises portfolio would be answered in writing‚ as Parliament closes for the year on Thursday. Brown was due to take oral questions with other ministers in cabinet's economic cluster.
The session was then dominated by the latest splurge by ministers on new vehicles and ministerial homes. Lindiwe Zulu of small business development angrily denied a Sunday Times report that her department has procured a new car for her at a cost of R1-million.
The Sunday Times reported last weekend that government had bought 13 new cars for ministers and deputy ministers at a cost of just under R12-million.
Asked about the report during a Parliamentary question session‚ Zulu said she drove a Lexus valued at R580,000. “Even a child would know that a Lexus like that can't cost a million rands‚” she said.
Democratic Alliance MP Malcolm Figg said the “extravagant spending” of nearly R2.5-million on a Mercedes Benz and a Toyota Land Cruiser for minister of public works Nathi Nhleko and his deputy minister Jeremy Cronin, “is insulting to ordinary South Africans”.
During his turn to respond to questions‚ Nhleko carefully sidestepped the issue. Nhleko also dodged questions on another Sunday Times expose‚ detailing how government had spent R48-million on six new houses for ministers.
Nhleko only responded by saying the exorbitant expenditures‚ which came as government revenue was shrinking‚ was in line with the Public Finance Management Act.
Transport minister Joe Maswanganyi responded to questions about e-tolling‚ admitting that the government had placed three planned projects for e-tolling on hold as a result of poor payment of toll accounts by motorists. He said that roads agency Sanral owed a current debt of R48-billion‚ which it was struggling to service as a result of "motorists who are defaulting".
He said R2-billion was being paid from the non-toll portfolio to service the debt.
Maswanganyi said that R230-million should be collected in toll fees‚ however government was only able to recoup R65-million in e-tolls from motorists. "At this juncture there is no way we will continue with e-tolling (of new roads). I'm not saying that in the future we won't but for now‚ we have a debt we must service of R48-billion‚" he said.