Allow cabinet members to 'amend' their answers, says Jackson Mthembu
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu wants parliament to come up with a new rule that will allow cabinet members to amend incorrect answers they provided to the legislature within a specific time frame.
The ANC's call comes about a week after President Cyril Ramaphosa wrote to national assembly speaker Baleka Mbete correcting an answer he gave to DA leader Mmusi Maimane about his son Andile's business dealing with controversial company Bosasa.
“Going forward, our rules must be amended to provide for instances wherein an unwitting, incorrect answer is provided, to allow for corrections to be made within specific time frames. At the moment, we don't have such a rule. The corrections by the president were new areas that parliament needs to look at in terms of its rules,” said Mthembu on Thursday.
Mthembu added that there was a need for this provision in the rules because it has been proven that it is possible to unknowingly give wrong or erroneous information to the house. He said the rule would also cover statements by MPs, including information shared during debates.
Mthembu said his party had accepted Ramaphosa's written correction, sent to Mbete last week, in which the president revealed that his reply to a supplementary question was incorrect and that the payment referred to in the question did not relate to a contract Andile had with Bosasa.
Instead, he said, it was a donation made on behalf of Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson into a trust account that was used to raise funds for his campaign to become ANC president.
A week earlier, Ramaphosa had told the National Assembly that the payment was for consultancy work Andile did for Bosasa.
Mthembu was adamant that Ramaphosa did not intentionally and willfully mislead parliament, and that when he became aware — which was "almost immediately" after the question and answer session — that the information he had dispersed in the house was incorrect, he sought to bring forward the correction without being coerced.
"The president was immediately aware and he put into motion the necessary processes for his letter to come to parliament. I don't know why it took so long for the letter to the speaker to come," said Mthembu, responding to a question as to whether Ramaphosa was prompted by a DA application for the details of Andile's contract with Bosasa.
Maimane submitted two separate applications in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act to gain access to the contract for services rendered by Andile to Bosasa three days before Ramaphosa's letter to Mbete.
Mthembu said the proposed new rule should dictate the period in which information could be corrected so that when that time expired parliament would be able to make a ruling on whether a member or minister was in breach of its codes.
Mthembu also sought to defend Ramaphosa's failure to declare the donation in the MPs register of interests in 2017 saying the president, who was deputy president at the time, did not personally receive the monies and that his elections team was dealing with donations.
Mthembu said the MPs' code of ethical conduct was silent on declarations for internal campaigns. Even the political party funding bill, which was passed by parliament earlier this year, did not touch on funding of internal contestations.
“Monies do not even come to the people, they go to the campaign teams. You might have benefited but the money that has been sponsored did not come to your account and it was handled by a campaign team … people who may not even be members of parliament,” he said.
Mthembu confirmed that a previous investigation showed that there was a gap in the rules in terms of this matter and there was a recommendation to fix the anomaly.