Axed chair to seek interdict

2008-02-29 00:00

THE recently axed chairwoman of legislature’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) claimed yesterday that she suffered abuse from Premier Sbu Ndebele for allegedly refusing to toe the ANC line and for being critical of the ruling party.

“I have been personally subjected to extremely abusive phone calls from the premier. On two occasions independent witnesses were present. On another occasion, the premier publicly castigated and shouted at me after a sitting during a Taking Parliament to the People programme. On each occasion he threatened to have me removed from Scopa because I did not support the ANC,” Jo-Ann Downs told the media shortly after she was fired as chair of the legislature’s financial watchdog committee yesterday.

Downs said “the pressures to conform to the ANC dictates had been severe”, but vowed to challenge the decision.

She later told journalists that she has learnt that Speaker Willies Mchunu had removed her from Scopa, adding she will seek legal advice. Downs was also seeking to get a court interdict to prevent her successor, the Reverend Hawu Mbatha, from chairing a Scopa meeting scheduled for today.

“I say shame on, you honourable premier, and shame on you, honourable Mbatha, for accepting and shame on the ANC for doing this. I have not been treated fairly and was not given the right to defend myself.

“I will not give up my seat on Scopa I will be there and will fight to keep this government accountable,” said an emotional Downs.

Downs, was sacked after members of the Legislature voted to have her removed from the position. Only members of the Democratic Alliance voted against the decision.

The IFP contingent staged a walkout during the emotionally charged sitting after its leader, Lionel Mtshali, raised objections to the decision to sack Downs.

The ANC at the Legislature wanted Downs removed from the position, accusing her of leaking crucial information to the media.

“The honourable Downs is responsible for her downfall. She is the author of her own fate. We warned her of leaking information to the media before it is even tabled … ,” said ANC chief whip Cyril Xaba at the legislature.

Downs challenged the ANC to provide evidence of any wrongdoing on her part.

The DA and the IFP also condemned the “rushed” decision

“The ANC has failed to give any, let alone plausible, reasons for the rushed move to replace the Scopa chairwoman.

“If the reasons behind the sacking were legitimate, such as misconduct, the ANC would be flaunting them openly … The silence means that there are no such reasons, bar the chairperson’s commitment to fearless parliamentary oversight.”

bmbanjwa@witness.co.za

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