Pule will not be recalled

2013-08-21 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Several cabinet ministers and senior ANC MPs queued to sympathise with their former colleague Dina Pule yesterday, after the speaker had given Pule a dressing-down for lying to Parliament.

Speaker Max Sisulu gave Pule a public tongue-lashing in the National Assembly, mandated by the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests, which found Pule guilty of abusing her position in government since 2009 to allocate contracts to her partner.

Sisulu, who addressed Pule as “miss” instead of “honourable member”, said she had undermined the public’s trust in and had brought dishonour on Parliament. He said Pule had intentionally misled the ethics committee by lying under oath to hide her relationship with her boyfriend, Phosana Mngqibisa.

Sisulu then asked the assembly to rise and imposed on Pule the maximum fine prescribed by the parliamentary code of conduct, which is to dock a month’s salary and suspend her for 15 days from Parliament.

An MP’s basic salary amounts to well over R70 000 a month, including perks like flights, pension and medical aid. Parliament also referred the case to the police.

Pule offered a short apology, telling the members she had made a mistake in executing her duties and that she was sorry.

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said the party welcomed Parliament’s action against their member, but would not take any further disciplinary steps and would await the outcome of a probe by the police and the Hawks. He confirmed the ANC would not recall Pule as a member of Parliament.

DA Chief Whip Watty Watson said it was astonishing that the ANC chose not to suspend Pule.

He said instead of submitting Pule to a disciplinary hearing, several ANC MPs — including ANC Chief Whip Stone Sizani and several ministers — had almost scrummed around Pule to give her a hug and offer their support after her public humiliation. Watson said Pule should be suspended, not hugged and treated as if she were a victim or a hero.

He said that senior ANC MP Ben Turok and the Registrar of Members’ Interests, Fazela Mahomed, still needed bodyguards to protect them after receiving death threats during their investigation of Pule.

Pule was initially charged because of irregularities with the financing of an IT indaba the Department of Communications sponsored in Cape Town last year. Millions of rands had disappeared from the organiser’s account and fingers were pointed at Mngqibisa, who had signing rights on the account.

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