Cape Town -
Former MECs Pierre Uys and Marius Fransman refused to testify at a public hearing in the Western Cape legislature on Wednesday after their request for more time to prepare was denied.
They were summonsed to appear before the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) after they ignored a request to appear at a meeting last month.
Scopa chairman Grant Haskin said their request for more time was reasonable, but the DA majority on Scopa rejected it.
The committee is interrogating the spending of R10.3 billion between 2004 and 2011 on consultants, contractors and outsourced services, as highlighted in a report by the auditor-general earlier this year.
Fransman was transport and public works MEC and Uys the health MEC from 2004 to 2009 when the ANC controlled the legislature.
Uys, who is also ANC chief whip in the legislature, spoke on behalf of Fransman, who is the ANC provincial chairman, because Fransman was not allowed to speak unless he took the oath.
Uys said Scopa had decided to summons him and Fransman 30 minutes before the meeting on March 17 was to begin and he had questioned the validity of the summons.
Haskin dismissed Uys’s concerns, saying: “It was only by virtue of the luxury you had of sitting in your office and watching proceedings on the television that you knew of the decision to summons and you decided not to attend the meeting.”
Uys then asked for a postponement of the hearing, saying they had to prepare for questioning. Some matters dated back 10 years.
“I will fully respond to the questions. It is reasonable to ask for postponement. I am not running away from anything.”
DA MPL Mark Wiley said: “Member Uys is circumventing the process and not giving evidence under oath, which he has to do.”
Uys had had time to prepare, Wiley said. The three DA MPLs used their majority to reject Uys’s request.
“It is like the tail wagging the dog,” said Wiley.
ANC MPL Max Ozinsky said it was “unparliamentary” of Wiley to call Scopa members animals.
He said this was a “political attempt to influence the outcome of the elections”.
Haskin then asked Fransman to take the oath and to start answering questions.
Uys said they could not continue as they had given sufficient cause for a postponement. He and Fransman walked out of the meeting.
Wiley said Scopa had to inflict the full legal process on Fransman and Uys. “Steps must be taken against contempt shown and criminal charges laid if necessary.”
Outside the meeting, Fransman said the committee was a “kangaroo process”. He and Uys remained committed to answering questions about the report. “They tried to find the bogeyman in the former MECs and that did not hold.”
The ANC in the Western Cape said later: “The ANC takes the matter seriously, and will seek further legal opinion and a possible review.
“The ANC is looking forward to exposing the DA’s abuses and cover-ups and dealing with the detail after the elections.”