EFF taunted over 'VBS looting' after Mabuza sidesteps 'rogue unit' question

Deputy president David Mabuza. (Presidency via Twitter)
Deputy president David Mabuza. (Presidency via Twitter)

An EFF question to Deputy President David Mabuza on the so-called SARS rogue unit was turned on its head when NFP MP Munzoor Shaik-Emam brought in the alleged looting of VBS Bank by his "friends in red".

Mabuza was answering questions in the National Assembly on Thursday - the first of the sixth Parliament.

The third question, sponsored by EFF MP Floyd Shivambu, asked if the government had any legislation in the pipeline to regulate the establishment of intelligence services in government departments and state-owned entities. 

IFP MP Narend Singh later remarked: "One can only smile at how loaded this question is."

This was in reference to the recent Public Protector report that found against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan relating to his role in setting up the SARS unit.

Mabuza answered, saying no such plans were in place.

The follow-up question was posed by EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi in Shivambu's absence.

He asked if the deputy president would agree that it would be illegal if there was a unit of SARS gathering intelligence, and if the government would take action against individuals involved in it.

"The honourable member would appreciate the fact that the matter is in front of the court," Mabuza replied, adding it would be premature to talk about the matter. 

Ndlozi objected, saying the sub judice rule does not preclude Parliament from holding the executive to account. 

Let courts judge on Gordhan-Mkhwebane dispute, speaker chastens EFF

The Economic Freedom Fighters in Parliament tried to push Deputy President David Mabuza to take a stand in the standoff between Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan and Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane during his oral replies to the legislature on Thursday afternoon.

National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise said the matter was pending the decision of a court, and when this was the case, Parliament should not discuss it. 

Shiak-Emam, in a follow-up question, said the intelligence agencies in South Africa were ineffective.

"If they were effective, my friends in red would not have looted VBS Bank," he said, to approving noise from the ANC benches.

He asked what the government was going to do to improve the intelligence agencies to prevent such looting in the future. 

Ndlozi jumped up to complain, pointing out that Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy and ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina were also wearing red. He said members could not be impugned without a substantive motion.

The red-coated Creecy just laughed. 

"He [Shaik-Emam] must withdraw those comments. People wearing red in this house have not been found guilty in a court of law," Ndlozi said.

In a rare turn of events, DA chief whip John Steenhuisen defended Shaik-Emam, whose party does not have a chief whip, and it therefore "falls on him" to point out he was within his rights to make the comment.

This led to the unusual situation where some ANC MPs applauded Steenhuisen.

EFF MP Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi said: "Ask Shaik-Emam to not provoke the EFF. He must not enter into the debate."

Modise said Shaik-Emam had not acted unparliamentary, as he had not impugned an individual member, but the party in general. She reminded them that in 2014 the EFF took a matter to court when they referred to the ANC.

She was referring to her ruling that EFF leader Julius Malema (who was absent on Thursday) was out of order during the debate on 2014's State of the Nation Address when he said the ANC murdered the Marikana miners.

Toward the end of last year, as their own financials and alleged involvement with the looting of VBS came under scrutiny, the EFF launched several attacks on Gordhan who is seen as a key figure in rooting out corruption at state-owned enterprises.

Recently, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane released two reports with findings against Gordhan. The one report states that he should not have approved the early retirement, with full pension benefits, of Ivan Pillay in 2010 and his re-employment on a fixed term contract. The other report relates to the so-called rogue unit at SARS. 

Gordhan has taken both reports on review, with the EFF rallying in support of Mkhwebane outside the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday.

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