'Parliament deserves a better Speaker' - DA deputy chief whip

Cape Town - The to and fro between Speaker Baleka Mbete and the Democratic Alliance (DA) on the report on individuals who misled Parliament during the ad hoc committee on the SABC board continued on Friday with DA deputy chief whip Mike Waters saying "Parliament deserves a better Speaker".

On Thursday, after acting secretary to Parliament Penelope Tyawa dismissed the DA's application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), Waters said Tyawa "has joined the Speaker of the National Assembly in trying to keep the report into those who lied during the SABC inquiry from public scrutiny".

Tyawa denied the PAIA request on the grounds that Mbete will refer the report to the National Assembly's "relevant structures" in August.

Later on Thursday, Parliament responded to Waters' comments, saying any "insinuation that the Speaker seeks to quash a parliamentary probe into these allegations is erroneous".

Friday morning Waters responded, "She is correct in as far as no such insinuation has been made," he said.

The ad hoc committee, on which Waters served, recommended that Parliament's legal services compile a report of people whose testimony had been untruthful.

'Criminal charges being laid'

This report had to be submitted to Parliament by June 5, which was done. Since then the DA tried in vain to get its hands on the report.

Waters pointed out that a part of the recommendation was that the persons who misled the inquiry be identified "with the aim of criminal charges being laid".

Parliament's spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said in Thursday's statement that Mbete would refer the report of the portfolio committee on communications in August. 

Mbete had written to individuals on the list, inviting them to make submissions by the end of July on the serious allegations they faced, Mothapo said.

In terms of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, a person who wilfully furnishes a House or committees with information, or makes a statement before it, which is false or misleading, could face a fine or two years of imprisonment, or both.

Mothapo said Mbete would, after the deadline, pass the list of the individuals and their submissions to the committee "for further handling in accordance with the rules of the Assembly". 

'Parliament deserves a better Speaker'

Waters said Mbete is correct to note that a person who violates the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act is liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years, or both.

"That is because lying to Parliament, under oath, is a criminal offence."

"Indeed, she acted in bad faith when she 'wrote to individuals cited on the list, inviting them to make submissions by the end of July on the serious allegations they face'," said Waters.

"Mbete's actions beg the question, why have those who lied to Parliament been given three months to prepare their defence? And why is the representative of Parliament coming to the defence of those who lied to the Legislature, rather than the institution which has been wilfully misled?"

Waters said Mbete is once again prioritising her role of ANC chairperson over her role as Speaker.

"Parliament deserves a better Speaker. One that will defend the integrity of the Legislature from those who disrespect the institution and seek to escape accountability."

Mothapo said Mbete would not disclose their names until a committee process had begun.

Those who could be implicated in the report include former communications minister Faith Muthambi, and former SABC board chairpersons Mbulaheni Maguvhe, Ellen Tshabalala, and Ben Ngubane.

The ad hoc committee found Muthambi "incompetent" in its report which was adopted by the National Assembly. 

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