Parliament’s ethics committee has found sacked former communications minister, Dina Pule, guilty of “wilfully misleading” the panel over the controversial ICT Indaba in which her boyfriend, Phosane Mngqibisa, took home a R6 million pay cheque in the name of a company owned by him, Khemano, to organise the Indaba.
The multi-party ethics committee has given Pule its highest sanction, docking one month’s salary and withdrawing her parliamentary privileges as well as a reprimand from speaker Max Sisulu.
The decision vindicates the Sunday Times, who Pule accused of waging a “smear campaign” against her, over its series of investigations that exposed a number of dodgy deals by the ex-minster and Mngqibisa, as well as how he travelled with her abroad at the taxpayers’ expense while she denied being involved with him, saying he was a “comrade”.
The ethics committee found Mngqibisa was “the de facto permanent companion/spouse”, with their relationship tracked back to 2009 when she was still deputy minister in the Presidency. It said Mngqibisa obtained government funding for trips abroad and took part in official meetings of the communications department despite not being its employee. Mngqibisa and Khemano also benefitted financially from the communications department and admitted being paid R6 million for the Indaba.
Pule also failed to declare the financial benefits enjoyed by “her de facto spouse”, with her declarations between 2009 and 2012 being incomplete and ”wilfully misled” the ethics committee panel that investigated her on these matters and never admitted any wrongdoing and that several officials from the communications department might have committed perjury in their evidence.
The Democratic Alliance, which laid criminal charges against Pule and initiated a public protector investigation into her dealings, welcomed the decision of the ethics committee. Dianne Kohler Barnard, the party’s shadow minister of police, said the party was DA “pleased that the multiparty ethics committee was unanimous in its decision to impose the strictest possible penalties available to Parliament in this case. The matter has now been referred to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) for further investigation”.
Kohler Barnard said the committee “rejected her evidence as untrustworthy and determined that she be issued with a reprimand, fined 30 days’ salary, and be suspended from Parliament for 15 days”.
She didn’t spare Pule’s department, saying several of the officials who worked there failed to appear before the committee. They also submitted incomplete information in relation to the number of trips taken, and claimed that documents requested by the panel had ‘disappeared’.
“Public representatives found guilty of corruption and abuse of power should be penalised swiftly and to the full extent of the mandates available, and this process has reinforced the crucial necessity of ethical behaviour in this highest body in the land,” Kohler Barnard said.