Newsmaker: The 10 Commandments defence

2012-07-14 16:39

It was a rather warm ­display of the spirit of comradeship.

The Gauteng provincial legislature had just concluded an extraordinary sitting to table a special report by the privileges and ethics standing committee.

Members of the legislature exchanged warm handshakes and bear hugs with Humphrey Mmemezi.

Such was the enthusiasm, an ignorant passer-by might have believed Mmemezi had just achieved some notable milestone.

Instead, the house had earlier heard – among other allegations – that Mmemezi had misled the legislature and the office of the integrity commissioner.

Friday morning’s special sitting was dedicated to mulling over the ­integrity commissioner’s report on an investigation into alleged irregularities by Mmemezi during his ­tenure as the MEC of housing and local government.

Mmemezi announced his resignation from the position this week, but will stay on as an ordinary member of the provincial legislature (MPL).

But Gauteng DA MPL Jack Bloom called for Mmemezi to also relinquish his seat: “Ethically, we do ­believe that the honourable member (Mmemezi) should have resigned from this house.”

But ANC chief whip Brian Hlongwa defended Mmemezi, who is also the deputy general secretary of the ANC in Gauteng.

“He’s taken an honourable decision (to resign), which is not common,” said Hlongwa.

Hlongwa spent the better part of the day defending Mmemezi, going as far as to refer to the biblical Ten Commandments: “If all of us in here were tested on the Ten Commandments,” he said during a press conference after the sitting, “most of us would be found wanting.”

Hlongwa was responding to a question about whether the party would force Mmemezi to relinquish his MPL seat.

“The long and short of it is that to err is human; to forgive is divine,” Hlongwa said.

He used terms such as “lapse of judgement” in Mmemezi’s defence.

“There is a distinction between ethical and criminal issues. At this stage, there is no evidence to suggest we have criminal charges.”

The investigation into Mmemezi centred on a road accident in which his official vehicle, a BMW X5, was involved in ­uMzimkhulu, KwaZulu-Natal, in ­November last year.

The report found that: “MEC (Mmemezi) has, at the very least, been very economical with the truth surrounding his involvement in an accident and the subsequent action which took place in KZN on his journey to the Eastern Cape.

“He has misled the legislature and the office of the integrity commissioner, and may have tried to cover up the extent of damage to his official vehicle.

“Needless to say, this ­behaviour is unbecoming of a member of the provincial legislature and in particular a member of the executive council.”

The report also found that ­Mmemezi’s use of his departmental credit card for personal use “amounted to an act of negligence” and “a lapse of judgement”.

The report noted Mmemezi did not answer the following questions put to him about the credit card:
» Whether it was used to make a purchase from President Hyper in Krugersdorp on April 16 2011; and

» Whether it was used to make purchases from Woolworths Harrison Street on September 22 2011 and January 19 2012.

Mmemezi also did not disclose the amounts of the purchases or whether these were in line with the official guidelines for the use of an official credit card.

Mmemezi issued a statement of apology to the legislature, saying he had learnt a valuable lesson.

Ag, it was just another week of ­dishonourable revelations in the honourable house . . .

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