MP Dipuo Peters suspended for Prasa failings

High court dismisses urgent application to stop parliament from taking action

29 January 2024 - 16:03
By Sisanda Mbolekwa
Former transport minister  Dipuo Peters. File photo.
Image: VELI NHLAPO Former transport minister Dipuo Peters. File photo.

MP Dipuo Peters will be placed on suspension from Tuesday after the dismissal of her urgent application to stop parliament from taking action.

The matter was heard by the Western Cape High Court and was dismissed with costs.

The duration of her suspension from her seat in all parliamentary debates, sittings and committee meeting-related functions of the parliamentary programme will be one term.

In October last year, the joint committee on ethics and members’ interests considered a complaint against Peters and found that she had breached the code of ethical conduct in her former portfolio as transport minister.

The complaint, launched by #UniteBehind leader Zackie Achmat, included allegations that Peters “was neglectful in her previous portfolio as minister of transport by failing to appoint a group CEO of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa)”.

The MP's sanction and suspension was also a result of her dismissal of the Prasa board, seemingly because it had uncovered R14bn in irregular expenditure and instituted investigations into corruption at Prasa.

It was also alleged she used Prasa buses for ANC events during 2014 and 2015 without ensuring payment from the party. .

In a statement released by parliament, the ethics committee concluded that Peters failed to act in accordance with the public trust placed in her.

“After deliberations, the ethics committee found that the member’s failure to appoint a group CEO breached items 4.1.3 and 4.1.4 of the code, in that the member failed to act on all occasions in accordance with the public trust placed in her; and discharge her obligations, in terms of the constitution, to parliament and the public at large, by placing the public interest above her own interests when she failed to appoint a group CEO after the Prasa board had commissioned a recruitment process, which resulted in a financial loss of R1,767,000,” it said.

The committee advised the National Assembly that for each of the three violations identified, Peters should be barred from participating in all parliamentary debates and sessions, as well as from committee meetings and their related activities and operations, for one session of the parliamentary programme.

“Additionally, the committee suggested that the suspensions for all three violations occur simultaneously during a single session of the parliamentary programme, as decided by the National Assembly.

“We concur with the presiding judge’s finding that there was no valid justification for the application to be heard on an urgent basis as the member was cognisant of the committee’s conclusions and the penalties it proposed on October 26 2023, which she acknowledged receiving. Her intent to contest the committee’s conclusions, expressed on November 28, also confirms this awareness.”

Parliament said it appreciated the court's sentiments regarding the importance of allowing parliament, as an arm of state, to regulate its business without interference from other arms of the state.

“Granting relief to delay the enforcement of this sanction would essentially invalidate a decision taken by a different arm of the state, exercising its constitutional oversight responsibilities, especially given its time-sensitive nature, where there is no legal foundation to do so.”

Peters' suspension is expected to be lifted on March 28.