‘You are not listening!’ Mashatile tells MPs as they grill him on VIP motorcade incident

The deputy president lashed out at MPs who questioned the Phala Phala findings and VIP unit incident

07 September 2023 - 21:23
By Amanda Khoza
Deputy president Paul Mashatile has again denied being present when his VIP protection unit assaulted motorists.
Image: GCIS. DEFENCE MODE Deputy president Paul Mashatile has again denied being present when his VIP protection unit assaulted motorists.

Deputy president Paul Mashatile was back in the National Council of Provinces for oral questions on Thursday. 

And the ghost of Phala Phala and the shenanigans of his presidential VIP protection team loomed large in parliament’s second chamber. 

Asking a question that Mashatile was familiar with, DA’s George Michalakis asked whether the deputy president was in the convoy when members of the SAPS VIP protection unit assigned to him assaulted civilians on the N1, Johannesburg, in July.

Responding, Mashatile calmly quoted police minister Bheki Cele, who told parliament’s committee on police on August 16, that the deputy president normally has seven cars, six from the SAPS and a medical car from the SANDF.

Mashatile confirmed to the house that he was not there when the incident occurred. 

“The cars that carry the president and the deputy president don’t stop for anything. We don’t even stop for a red robot. It would have been very strange if my car had stopped there and I was busy watching what was happening. 

“When I became I aware of this incident I was actually home already.”

Holding himself back from divulging further information he said, “to be fair. This matter is now in court and it may be very difficult to engage on it. It’s sub judice”.

Michalakis fired back, asking Mashatile why he needed a convoy of seven vehicles. But an ANC member ran to the rescue of the deputy president, saying the “matter is before the courts” therefore it could not be discussed in the house.

NCOP chair Amos Masondo entered the fray, saying: “We do not want to give this house a bad name or the impression that there is suppression, and no-one can be forthright, but there is a problem with using the time allocated for questions to make speeches.”

Another ANC member raised a point of order again, saying the matter is before court, but a DA member countered that with “freedom of expression”.

Michalakis was given a second bite at the question. He put it to Mashatile that “his version keeps changing to be in line with what the police minister said”.

He asked Mashatile what he did when he became aware of the incident, and Mashatile said the same questions will be raised in court. “I think the member is not listening,” said Mashatile. 

Masondo then warned members against heckling in the house.

Mashatile ducked all the questions, saying he did not want the sitting to be reduced to a court of law. “Let’s leave this matter, it will come at the right time.”

But when other members of the NCOP would not relent, Mashatile said: “I think members are not listening, maybe I should have said it in Afrikaans. Asseblief tog.” 

That was not the only burning matter that Mashatile had to deal with.

The Phala Phala saga again came up, and Mashatile said in his view the government is not ducking away from answering specific allegations. “Parliament embarked on a process which concluded in December last year in line with the rules of parliament. I know that there are people that think this matter must go on and on.”

He said MPs had the right to feel aggrieved or have “reservations or unhappiness”, but the matter had been probed by the South African Revenue Service, the office of the public protector and the South African Reserve Bank.

“The government and our president have committed to be subjected to all processes governed by our constitutions and the laws of our country.” 

He said he was aware there are those who’ll feel that the processes were biased. “Let’s respect this institution because it’s us that established these institutions.”

Asked about the perception that state institutions were being used to cover up for a sitting head of state, Mashatile reiterated that “it’s not fair” to dispute the findings. 

“What if the institutions said the president is guilty, you were going to be happy. You were going to say viva public protector!”