Parliament failed Tony Yengeni, says Thandi Modise

2015-08-25 15:35


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Cape Town - Fourteen years after former ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni was investigated by Parliament’s ethics committee for his failure to declare the 47% discount on his luxury Mercedes-Benz 4x4 and therefore violating Parliament’s code of conduct, a senior ANC MP has come to his defence, saying Parliament had in fact failed him.

Yengeni later pleaded guilty to fraud relating to the discount he received in 1998 on the vehicle from the then-head of a company involved in the arms deal and was sentenced to four years in prison, although he only served five months.

On Tuesday morning during a workshop on ethical standards for elected representatives, Thandi Modise, who is the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, lamented the manner in which Parliament had dealt with Yengeni.

"Sometimes I think Parliament failed Tony Yengeni," she said. 

"I want to be blunt. Tony Yengeni gets a discount on a car. He is advised that you are not the only one. You should have declared the discount.

"Isn't there something else that we should have done to ensure that he actually understands the gravity of the situation where a member not declaring and therefore committing whatever in terms of our own rules.

"How do you then look at a member who has not declared, is given a chance, declares, [but] is not called a fraudster today but Tony Yengeni is called a fraudster out there in the street today," asked Modise.

She explained that she was saying that systems must always be consistent.

"If you are going to give me the chance to correct, then give the other Tony Yengenis the chance to correct," she said.

Modise said this while urging those who attended the workshop to clarify and make simpler areas of the code of conduct which she said were "fudged".

She said the instrument which is supposed to regulate MPs sometimes made them feel constricted and they end up doing the wrong thing.

She also pleaded that such instruments should not impede on the rights of others simply because they are related to a public representative.


Modise called on public representatives to be honest, saying declarations of their interests are not punitive.

She said the code of conduct spoke to transparency and it spoke to honesty.

"In our definition of a leader, I always think that the first big word that we must use is not vision, like people say, it is honesty."

Modise said the "instrument" regulating MPs must also enable them to be honest, adding that at the beginning of the Fifth Parliament, there was a lot of discussion by MPs about the language in which the Code of Conduct is sometimes couched.

"It creates confusion, it gives double meanings but also what are the other things which must inform my declaration and how I conduct myself," she said.

Modise said at a particular time, Parliament will have to come to declare upfront "who you are, what you are, what you have and how you got it".

She said MPs should be able to say "I have what I have. I am not ashamed to declare it because I got it cleanly".

The workshop was attended by MPs, members of provincial legislatures and councillors who were representing the local government sphere.

Chairperson of the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests, Amos Masondo, said the workshop was held to initiate a national dialogue on ethical standards for elected representatives.

"The objective of the workshop is to consider best practices in the ethics sector, determine issues related to implementation, as well as emerging with best practices on ethics for elected representatives," said Masondo.

Read more on:    tony yengeni  |  thandi modise  |  cape town  |  parliament 2015
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