Thandi Modise admits Parliament was slow to 'wake up and smell the coffee' about state capture

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Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise.
Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise.
Jan Gerber, News24
  • National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise has apologised to South Africans that Parliament only woke up to state capture when it had already become really bad.
  • She said the Gupta Leaks showed that the allegations weren't propaganda.
  • Modise is testifying at the Zondo commission.

National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise has apologised to South Africans for Parliament's slow response to state capture. Modise was testifying before the state capture inquiry on Monday.

One of the inquiry's workstreams is Parliamentary oversight, and this was the subject of evidence leader Alec Freund SC's questions to Modise.

ROLLING COVERAGE | Modise, Mantashe give evidence at Zondo commission

Modise was the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces of the Fifth Parliament, when most of the Gupta state capture allegations came to light. Baleka Mbete was the speaker of the National Assembly at the time.

However, the first time the alarm was raised in the media about the Gupta's undue influence was in early 2011.

In May 2016, then deputy minister of finance Mcebisi Jonas publicly alleged that the Guptas offered him the finance ministry and a massive bribe for doing their bidding. In October 2016, former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released her State of Capture Report,  which led to the commission's establishment after an unsuccessful court challenge by former president Jacob Zuma.

Leaks

In 2017, a tranche of e-mails from the Gupta brothers and their associates, dubbed the Gupta Leaks, were released and laid allegations of state capture bare.

Modise admitted that it was only after the Gupta Leaks that Parliament cottoned on to the problem.

She and Mbete discussed portfolio committees investigating the allegations.

Thievery 

"What concerned us was that it wasn't your usual maladministration or petty thievery," she said.

"We felt Parliament must wake up and smell the coffee."

READ | 'The commission will not be intimidated' - Zondo after office burglary, shot fired through window

The National Assembly's house chairperson for committees, Cedrick Frolick, then sent a letter to some committees to ask them to investigate state capture.

Freund asked why it took the Gupta Leaks for Parliament to start taking action, as allegations were in the public domain much earlier.

"In politics, sometimes there are games," Modise said, explaining that spurious allegations could be made for political gain. She said, when the e-mails came out, it was clear the state capture allegations were not "propaganda" or "political games".

"We are now at a point where we [Parliament] want to know everything," she said.

Modise said it is "regrettable" that Parliament only woke up when things became really bad.

"For that, we apologise to the South African people."

Modise's testimony continues. After her, it will be National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo and ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe, who will complete his testimony from last week.

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