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Committee seeks legal guidance on DMR inquiry

Mar 14 2018 20:26
Lameez Omarjee

Cape Town – Parliament’s oversight committee on mineral resources will appoint an evidence leader to assist it in the inquiry of governance failures and maladministration at the Department of Mineral Resources.

The portfolio committee on mineral resources discussed the terms of reference for the inquiry at a meeting on Wednesday.

The decision to initiate an inquiry came about after former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane on February 21 failed to attend a meeting with the committee. He was supposed to answer questions about allegations made against him regarding state capture.

Zwane has been implicated in former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report, which found governance failures and maladministration at the DMR.

The committee regarded the state capture allegations in the report as serious, which is why the decision was made to launch an inquiry to fully consider the matter.

Committee member and ANC MP Motswaledi Matlala raised concerns about how the inquiry into the DMR will fit into the grander scheme of the state capture inquiry.

To this, chair Sahlulele Luzipo expressed his disappointment that Parliament’s legal services team was not at the meeting to give guidance in that regard.

Luzipo said he discussed the probe into Zwane with the house chair Cedric Frolick, because Zwane is no longer an executive. The house chair told Luzipo that Zwane still has to account for his tenure in office.

Zwane was replaced by the ANC’s Gwede Mantashe, who has been well received by industry. The Chamber of Mines, which represents 90% of the industry, hailed him as a “man of integrity”.

ANC MP Mandla Mandela said the committee must consider that they are dealing with numerous allegations in the media. He said that given the allegations of state capture in the media, more weight should be placed on those pertaining to the DMR.

He suggested that probing Zwane about his flight number from Switzerland is not relevant with regard to the DMR. However, maladministration in the DMR is something to be looked into.

Democratic Alliance MP James Lorimer said the committee should be focused on what went wrong at the DMR and then correct it. It should extend beyond Zwane to other officials at the DMR who allegedly had a hand in it.

“It’s not just about an individual, it’s about the failure of an entire system,” he said.

Luzipo said this inquiry would be different to others. For example, the public enterprises committee is focusing solely on Eskom, and the Transport committee is focusing on the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa. Luzipo said the committee will basically be considering anything regarded as state capture. 

Most of the issues raised about the inquiry require legal advice, which is why the committee has decided to request an evidence leader from Parliament’s legal services.

The committee will meet once again to finalise the terms of reference, and the period of the inquiry among other things.

Before the meeting concluded, Mandela requested that the matter be dealt with urgently, as it appears to outsiders that it is being dragged out.

“The sooner we conclude this matter, the sooner we can get on with other matters of business with the committee.”

Luzipo said the committee should commence with the inquiry after Easter, and considered a suggestion from a committee member to conclude it in within 60 days. 

According to the draft terms of reference discussed at the meeting, the inquiry will look into Zwane’s role in facilitating the sale of Optimum coal mine and all other Glencore assets to Tegeta Exploration and Resources.

Other areas include fruitless and wasteful expenditure relating to travel arrangements made by the DMR for Zwane, non-compliance in the handling of mining rehabilitation funds, Zwane’s breach of the Ethics Act regarding conflict of interest, and if appointments and dismissals of DMR officials were subject to “external undue influence”.

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