While fired communications minister Dina Pule apologised for a range of sins – including trying to hide the fact that her boyfriend benefited to the tune of R6 million from a telecommunications indaba contract – while standing like a naughty schoolgirl before members of the National Assembly yesterday at the instruction of Speaker Max Sisulu, one did not get the impression that she was particularly sorry about the dubious role she had played.
This included threats to the lives of the ethics committee chairman Ben Turok, a fellow ANC MP, and the registrar of members’ interests, Fazela Mohamed, who were part of the investigation into the allegations against Pule.
Parliament has subsequently provided the two with security.
Relegated now to a back bench, Pule, dressed in black, said “if” she had done anything wrong during her time as communications minister, then she apologised.
Her exact words were: “I want to say to this House that I gave the best I could do to do my job, and that if in the course of me doing my job I made a mistake, I am sorry, I apologise.”
Yet Sisulu had read her the riot act. He said she would go without pay for 30 days and from today she could not participate in the activities of Parliament, including the debates, for 15 days. She also had to apologise to the house and correct her declaration of interests.
Turok had earlier said MPs – and cabinet members – were expected to put the public interest above their own financial interests.
Pule had used her office to benefit her boyfriend “improperly”. Pule had denied having a relationship with her boyfriend, Phosane Mngqibisa, but in at least one of her trips abroad – including to Kuala Lumpur, Paris, Mexico, New York, and Prague – he had been described as her spouse. They had travelled together and stayed in accommodation together.
The files on her Mexico trip had been mysteriously lost while a number of Communications Department officials had been unco-operative with the ethics committee investigation.
Pule had not declared either her own or her boyfriend’s interests as required.
On the same day, the Public Works Minister, Thulas Nxesi, said a report on alleged misspending of anything up to R270 million at Nkandla – the president’s private rural compound – would remain secret.
MPs should wait for the public protector’s report into security upgrades, he said. The president’s security had to be protected, Nxesi insisted.
One doesn’t suppose there will be any chance that the president will be forced to apologise for Nkandla some day.
Yesterday, Collins Chabane, the Minister for Performance Management and Evaluation in the Presidency, issued the Development Indicators 2012 report.
In a “good governance” section, it was reported that Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perception Index showed “a setback in perception regarding the fight against corruption in South Africa”.
It states that according to the index, perceptions about corruption levels had increased from 2011 to 2012, “pushing the ranking of South African from 64th to 69th place (from the 30s in 1997). South Africa’s corruption perception score remained below the midpoint – which is five”.
The report acknowledged that this was the second lowest score for South Africa in the 16 years since its first inclusion in Transparency International’s corruption perception index.
South Africa’s worsening ranking was a cause for concern, said the report, and required urgent attention. Chabane had similar things to say about it during a briefing at Parliament yesterday.
However, the report said it had to be borne in mind “that perceptions of corruption alone do not mean that corruption has actually worsened. It could mean, for instance, that more incidents of corruption are being publicly exposed, which increases public awareness about corruption.”
DA finance spokesman Tim Harris said the report showed how South Africa “is heading in the wrong direction under the Zuma administration”. The only way to get the country back on track was to stop corruption, attract investment and implement economic policies that facilitated growth and created jobs, Harris argued.
Chabane acknowledged that corruption was a problem. As the government unearthed more cases of corruption, the perception was that there was more corruption. But it might only be that the government was simply getting better at the process of uncovering corruption.
It means, in short, that the government can never win the perception game, can it?
Edited by Banele Ginindza. With contributions from Donwald Pressly.