Parliament to summon Guptas, Zuma’s son as state capture probe witnesses

22 June 2017 - 06:19 By BIANCA CAPAZORIO AND ERNEST MABUZA
Duduzane Zuma with the Gupta brothers. File photo.
Duduzane Zuma with the Gupta brothers. File photo.
Image: MARTIN RHODES

Parliament has spoken. It wants Gupta brothers Ajay and Atul, and President Jacob Zuma's son, Duduzane, listed as witnesses in a coming parliamentary inquiry.

 Not only that, the inquiry, initially meant to be into Eskom's procurement deals, is broadening its scope to probe state capture and potentially the leaked e-mails.

 "Parliament has not exercised its powers in those directions before," analyst Shadrack Gutto said.

 The National Assembly's public enterprises committee met yesterday to discuss terms of reference and potential witnesses to testify before its parliamentary inquiry, starting on August 1.

 The Guptas and Duduzane Zuma were not on the original list prepared by the committee but Democratic Alliance MP Natasha Mazzone requested they be included.

 Zukiswa Rantho, an ANC MP and acting chairman of the public enterprises committee, said they would seek legal advice on whether they could call the Guptas, but said parliamentary rules gave them powers to summon "any person" within South Africa.

 Attorney for the Gupta brothers Gert van der Merwe said: "Our attitude has always been that we will co-operate if there is a fair opportunity of presenting their version. My thinking has been that it would be more under the circumstances of a judicial inquiry.

"If we are summoned to appear I will advise them. One wouldn't necessarily advise one's client to go into an ambush," he said.

 Also on the list to be called are former Eskom senior executives including Tshediso Matona, Brian Molefe, Matshela Koko and Collins Matjila and former board chairmen Ben Ngubane and Zola Tsotsi.

 Rantho said in the interests of time the inquiry would look into Molefe's reappointment as group chief executive as well as issues of procurement at Eskom within the context of state-capture allegations.

 Among the matters the committee will investigate are:

  •  The response by Eskom to the public protector's State of Capture report, focusing on its findings about Molefe;
  •  Molefe's reappointment and how his retirement package was determined; and
  •  Eskom's compliance with legislation including the Companies Act, the Public Finance Management Act and the Pension Funds Act.

 Rantho confirmed she had received a letter from House chairman Cedric Frolick asking her committee to look into matters of state capture raised in the leaked Gupta e-mails, in which Duduzane Zuma features prominently.

 "We still need to get and read the e-mails but we will see if we can include them as part of the inquiry.

 "The coal contracts will form part of the inquiry. We can't separate them (the contracts and Molefe)," she said.

 Among the documents the committee would ask for are minutes of the meetings held to discuss Molefe's reappointment as well as his pension fund payout and all of the reports into maladministration at Eskom.

 Committee members all resolved to set aside party differences and conduct the inquiry in the best interests of the country.

 "We are in this together because we want to correct all the wrong-doings within Eskom," Rantho said.

 Mazzone said the committee was the "first in parliament to tackle this cancer of state capture".

 ANC MP Mondli Gungubele said even though Molefe was no longer at Eskom, "he became a symptom of a problem and those conditions, whether he is there or not, continue to exist".

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said there are an increasing number of ANC members in parliament who believe there should be an investigation into state capture.

 "I also think that this investigation requires a much more independent body than parliament," Mathekga said.

 He said parliament failed to deal adequately with the upgrades in Nkandla.

Mathekga said though the inquiry into the SABC board was effective in finding a solution, this did not mean parliament had the credibility to deal with the issue of state capture.

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