Former minister Dina Pule. CC image courtesy of GovernmentZA.
South Africa’s former communications minister Dina Pule was given a dressing down in parliament yesterday, when Ben Turok MP, co-chair of the joint committee on ethics and members’ interests, said her “private interests were in direct conflict with the public interest”.
Turok, who was also chairman of the panel investigating corruption allegations made against Pule, said the former minister had been “instrumental” in allowing her alleged romantic partner Phosane Mngqibisa to go from “being a minor player to a dominant position in the ICT Indaba”.
Mngqibisa’s company received ZAR6 million (US$600,000) from the event in Cape Town last year.
Addressing the National Assembly yesterday, Turok, who is also alleged to have been an assassination target in a plot involving Mngqibisa, said: “Evidence emerged during the hearings that Hon Pule and Mngqibisa had travelled together to several foreign destinations such as Mexico, New York, Kuala Lumpur, Paris and Prague.
“They shared road transport and they shared hotel accommodation. The panel obtained proof that at least one of these trips was paid for by the Department of Communications and Mngqibisa was listed for purposes of that trip as Hon Pule’s “spouse”.”
Turok said the panel had “great difficulty” in obtaining some travel papers and had been told the file for the Mexico trip “lost”.
He added: “What is remarkable about these trips is that Mngqibisa had no formal status at these meetings and when asked what his role had been he was unable to answer.”
Turok also shed light on “some serious attempts to interfere with the work” of the committee.
These involved Mngqibisa attending evidence hearings accompanied by a bodyguard who confronted the committee’s registrar, Fazela Mahomed, during coffee breaks and an apparent “clear collusion” between Pule and other senior officials.
Another member of the Department of Communications who had given evidence against Pule was also “subjected to bullying to try to get them to reverse their testimony”.
Turok called for a “full investigation” into the matter of a “Mr X” being asked to “arrange a ‘hit’ on the Registrar and myself”.
The Ethics Committee recommended the maximum penalty allowed in the Joint Rules of Parliament be enforced.
They include a reprimand in the House, a fine of 30 days’ salary and suspension of privileges and Pule’s right to a seat in parliament debates for 15 days.
Pule stood to make a short statement after listening to Turok’s speech and said: “I want to say to this House I did the best I could to do my job and if I made a mistake, I want to apologise.”
Marian Shinn, the Democratic Alliance’s shadow minister for communications, told HumanIPO: “She seems to be in denial about the seriousness of what she has been found guilty of. What she was put through in parliament yesterday should have brought home to her that she has shamed parliament and has likely indulged on criminal activities.
“This is the first time parliament has issued its strongest rebuke possible to an MP. Most people would have been thoroughly shamed in the process.”