Why Parliament won't act against Mduduzi Manana and Floyd Shivambu

In Parliament, the wheels of justice turn slowly

20 May 2018 - 00:00
MP Mduduzi Manana was found guilty of assault in  October.
Image: Alon Skuy MP Mduduzi Manana was found guilty of assault in October.

The parliamentary committee meant to hold to account misbehaving MPs is overwhelmed with cases.

The ethics committee said it might take longer to deal with prominent cases.

It has not even concluded the first case of assault against disgraced former deputy minister of higher education Mduduzi Manana that was reported in August.

This comes as pressure mounts on parliament and the ruling party to act against Manana after a second case was referred to it after he was accused by his former domestic helper of assaulting her.

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Other prominent cases concern former state security minister Bongani Bongo and EFF MP Floyd Shivambu.

Bongo was accused of offering a bribe to Ntuthuzelo Vanara, an advocate who led evidence in the parliamentary inquiry into alleged capture of Eskom by the Gupta family.

Shivambu is accused of assaulting a journalist within the parliamentary precinct.

In an interview with the Sunday Times this week, the co-chairmen of parliament's joint committee on ethics and members' interests, Amos Masondo and Omie Singh, said there was a new trend in parliament to refer complaints to their committee without proper consideration.

The two MPs spoke to the Sunday Times this week amid criticism within the parliamentary corridors that the ethics committee, once co-led by respected former ANC MP Ben Turok, had lost its bite and was dragging its feet in probing serious complaints against members.

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete referred the latest assault accusations against Manana to the committee 10 days ago.

Floyd Shivambu's case is before the committee.
Image: Freddy Mavunda Floyd Shivambu's case is before the committee.

The committee has been sitting for nine months on theexisting case against him.

Manana pleaded guilty to assaulting three women at a Johannesburg nightclub in August.

The Randburg Magistrate's Court sentenced him to a fine of R100000 or 12 months in jail. He was also ordered to complete a rehabilitation programme and do 500 hours of community service.

Earlier this month, his domestic helper laid a complaint of assault against him with the police and later withdrew it. Manana has denied the assault claims and has opened a charge of extortion against her.

Mbete referred the latest accusations against Manana to the committee for investigation, saying she was concerned about the accusations of physical violence against the MP.

It has been six months since the Bongo bribery matter was referred to the committee.

Masondo and Singh attributed the delays to a growing workload and uncertainty over how to proceed when some cases were still before the courts.

"Some cases go to court, and this is the case with the Manana matter. It went to court and he pleaded guilty and then, of course, there is the latest matter. We don't know where that is going to end up, but a complaint has been laid," said Masondo.

Singh said they would have to finalise the first complaint against Manana before looking at the latest one.

They said there was a "new trend" to involve the committee. It was being drawn into dealing with cases that were not in its ambit and sometimes appeared to be driven by political agendas.

"The new trend now is that if somebody coughs loudly in the Marks Building they report [it] to the ethics committee. That's what it's coming to now. Everything is referred to the ethics committee," said Singh.

The new trend now is that if somebody coughs loudly in the Marks Building they report [it] to the ethics committee
Omie Singh, co-chairman of parliament’s ethics committee


"It is used as a threat and sometimes things are referred to us only for us to find out that they do not belong to the ethics committee, but we have to first go through the motions in order to come out with a result that says 'this is not part of this committee'."

The committee traditionally investigated cases related to commercial conflicts of interest and failure to declare financial interests and benefits on the part of MPs. But "the face of parliament has changed", Singh said.

"The things that happen in the House never happened before, things like the assault of a journalist, we have always respected journalists," he added.

Bronwyn Pithey, an advocate with the Women's Legal Centre that laid a complaint against Manana in August, said she was disappointed with how the ethics committee has handled the matter.

She said that while she initially received feedback from the committee, follow-up e-mails had since gone unanswered.

The centre called for Manana to be removed as an MP.

The centre argued it was a mystery why he was still considered a worthy MP.