‘We will deal with her!” an ANC MP told two others in Parliament before two of them boycotted a meeting chaired by outspoken MP Makhosi Khoza on Tuesday.
The MP, Mervyn Dirks, continued: “She has defined herself outside of the ANC, and we will show her. The meeting starts at 2pm, but that meeting will turn into a press conference where she will tell the media how the ANC dealt with her.”
Dirks, a member of the parliamentary public service committee, was in a heated discussion with ANC MPs Sizani Dlamini-Dubazana, another member of that committee, and Nonhlanhla Ndaba.
City Press witnessed this encounter on Tuesday morning.
A few hours later, Dirks and Dlamini-Dubazana indeed boycotted the meeting of the parliamentary committee because they objected to it being led by Khoza, whom they accused of having violated an ANC rule.
The MPs and three others wrote to ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu voicing their objection and calling for Khoza’s removal.
As a response, Khoza attacked and mocked her comrades, including Public Service and Administration Minister Faith Muthambi, in WhatsApp messages seen by City Press.
She referred to Dirks, a former Pietermaritzburg deputy mayor, as a “confirmed successful DA recruit” and accused him of having collapsed the Pietermaritzburg municipality.
“Yet, you have the audacity to charge me for following my moral conscience.
“The less said about the history of Faith Muthambi when she was in local government, the better. This is the same minister who brought the SABC to its knees,” wrote Khoza.
She also questioned Dlamini-Dubazana’s struggle credentials, calling her a mafikizolo and suggesting that she “surfaced” because she was somebody’s girlfriend.
“Having people like you in the intelligence committee in South Africa could be one of the reasons why it is so weak,” she added.
Dlamini-Dubazana is also a member of Parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence.
The controversy around Khoza has brought into sharp focus divisions in the ANC parliamentary caucus, involving not only the outspoken MP, but also her colleagues, even in Cabinet – divisions acknowledged by Mthembu.
“There is no way that the caucus of the ANC cannot be affected by whatever it is that is consuming the movement itself.
"Matters of disunity and factionalism will find ... their way into caucus,” said Mthembu on Friday.
The ANC has taken a firm stand against Khoza, who was removed from her position as the chairperson of the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on public service and administration, as well as the five MPs who boycotted the committee’s meeting where Muthambi was expected to appear.
It remains unclear whether Muthambi would be sanctioned for her embarrassing abscondment.
Her spokesperson, Dumisani Nkwamba, told City Press certain circumstances prevented the minister from attending the committee meeting.
Nkwamba could not comment further, saying this was now a parliamentary matter.
Mthembu described Muthambi’s snub of the parliamentary meeting as “very embarrassing to the ANC”.
Muthambi was expected to give a briefing on the fourth-quarter performance of several entities that fall under her department.
She was also expected to be quizzed about the alleged expenditure of tax funds on flights and accommodation for friends and relatives to her budget speech in Cape Town earlier this year, and the alleged hiring of staff without following prescribed procedures.
City Press has, however, established that Parliament may not be able to subpoena Muthambi, despite a resolution taken by angry MPs in the public service and administration portfolio committee to do so “because proper protocols had not been followed in getting Muthambi to account for the alleged expenditure and recruitment of family and friends”.
The National Assembly House chairperson responsible for committees, oversight and information communication technology, Cedric Frolick, told City Press that basic protocols had not been followed, which made it difficult for Parliament to pursue “a legal process” involving subpoenas.
Khoza apparently requested Muthambi through a telephonic conversation and based on a letter she received from the DA to respond in writing to allegations made by the DA.
“Dr Khoza told me that such a report had not been received, so we agreed that, in that meeting, the letter of the DA could be tabled, but the minister should come at a later stage to ... deal with that letter. That was never on the agenda,” said Frolick.
Frolick revealed he had told Khoza before Tuesday’s meeting that, in terms of the application that she had submitted to Frolick’s office, there was only the agenda and nothing about Muthambi appearing in front of the committee to deal with the DA letter.
Frolick said for Parliament to pursue a subpoena or summons, it needed to be sure that it was legally on solid grounds.
“It’s a legal process and for Parliament to embark on a legal process, we must ensure that all our protocols were followed.”
An ANC insider told City Press what compounded the problems within the ANC component in the public service and administration committee was that five of the ANC’s six members in the committee were from the same province – KwaZulu Natal – with four of them from the same region.
“This means their differences run deeper than just Parliament issues, it’s their KwaZulu-Natal factional battles,” said the source.
Mthembu said the ANC had to ask itself about the quality of the cadres it deployed to Parliament. “The other side of discipline is political consciousness; we have to ask: Are we that politically conscientised?”
Khoza had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to print.