#EskomInquiry: Myeni can't hold committee to ransom

Cape Town - The portfolio committee on public enterprises has resolved to launch a process to subpoena former SAA board chair Dudu Myeni, the Gupta brothers and their associates and the ex-president’s son, Duduzane Zuma, to appear before it for the Eskom inquiry.

Committee members discussed the way forward as all three of them failed to appear before the inquiry, after having been extended invitations.

The committee has to wrap up the inquiry to table a report before Parliament.

ANC MP Rembuluwani Tseli said South Africans are waiting for recommendations from the committee.

The committee heard from Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba on Tuesday, and was also supposed to hear from Myeni, the Gupta brothers and Duduzane Zuma this week.

All three sent letters declining the invitation to appear.

Treated like a criminal

Myeni wrote to the committee indicating that she is ill. “It seems as if the portfolio committee is insensitive to my rights as a citizen, in terms of being afforded an opportunity to recover in dignity,” the letter read.

Myeni said that she expected Parliament to show her compassion by extending her the right to human dignity as she is sick. “Is this the way in which all citizens of South Africa will be treated, or is it only me? Am I now a suspect or a criminal?”

In the letter Myeni said that she felt like she was being treated as a criminal.

She was implicated in the testimony of former Eskom chair Zola Tsotsi, who said she had discussed the suspension of Eskom executives at a meeting. Myeni, however, denied this in her written submission to the inquiry.

DA MP Mazzone said that the letter was written in an “aggressive tone”. “It is impossible to wrap up the inquiry without Myeni’s testimony,” she said.

Similarly ANC MP Rembuluwani Tseli said that Myeni’s letter was a “declaration of war”. “She simply does not seem to be ready to come and clear her name,” he said.

“We can’t be held ransom by one person for us to conclude our work. South Africans are waiting for recommendations from the committee,” he said. “It has reached the stage to issue summons,” he said.

EFF MP Floyd Shivambu called to have Myeni’s illness verified before issuing a summons.

“The sickness may be a fake sickness or convenient to avoid the process… Those aiding her to fake illness will face consequences,” said Shivambu.

Shivambu said it was punishable by law to refuse to appear before Parliament.

ACDP MP Steven Swart added that Myeni still had not sent through a doctor’s certificate.”

‘Same WhatsApp group’

A letter from Zuma's lawyer, Gary Mazaham, indicated that his client had not received transcripts of testimonies of Ben Martins, Lucky Montana and Suzanne Daniels.

Unless the transcripts are received, the lawyer said he could not advise Zuma to answer to the committee.

Mazzone said that Zuma was in the same WhatsApp group as Myeni. She said the letter reflected disdain and ignorance of the Constitution and the role of Parliament and called for him to be summonsed.

The Guptas' lawyers, BDK Attorneys, also wrote a letter, indicating that their clients would not appear because they are out of the country. The letter criticised the inquiry of being “political showboating”.

“The proceedings are to a large extent an exercise in political showboating by parliamentarians intent either on making political speeches, insulting witnesses or otherwise questioning witnesses in a manner which is not conducive to the resolution of identified or identifiable issues,” it read. 

Swart noted the “serious allegations” made against the committee, such as unfair questioning of witnesses.

“It is not a question for them to decide if they are going to subject themselves to what they term an 'irresponsible investigation’. This is an oversight inquiry,” said Swart. “I object to the strong language they have put here.”

Chair Zukiswa Rantho also had an issue with the language being used in the letters addressed to the committee. “The current language they are using is undermining the work of this committee.”

Swart called the Gupta brothers “fugitives of justice” and said they should not be treated differently to other witnesses. He called for them to be summonsed immediately.

Rantho said the inquiry would go on recess as the committee has other business to attend to before deciding on a date for when the summonses will be issued.

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