Parliament and Gordhan down to the wire on SAA/Takatso fight

The SAA-Takatso transaction is the centre of a dispute in Parliament. Picture: David Ritchie Independent Newspapers

The SAA-Takatso transaction is the centre of a dispute in Parliament. Picture: David Ritchie Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 28, 2024


Parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises has called on Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan to bring it on, as he warned in a letter yesterday prior to its sitting that “should the portfolio committee adopt and publish the report, the department will take the matter to court for review”.

Parliamentarians took issue with the threat of legal action, the isolation of committee chairperson Khayalethu Magaxa for rebuke by Gordhan, as well as the insistence of the committee to be mindful of interfering with decisions of the executive, particularly in commercial transactions.

“There are a lot of tantrums by the minister. We do not appreciate all these letters. The resolutions made by this committee are not made individually by the chairperson. If the minister wants to go to court, he is more than welcome to do so,” EFF MP Nqobile Mhlongo submitted.

The committee adopted all the reports and minutes pertaining to the matter much against Gordhan’s warning, with Magaxa pointing out that the National Assembly awaited the recommendations.

“I have heard from the office of the chief whip that there might be special sessions to discuss these matters even after the committee is dissolved as this is our last sitting today. Perhaps there will be special meetings,” Magaxa said.

Parliamentarians Jabulile Mkhwanazi (ANC), the DA’s Mimmy Gondwe, and the ANC’s Nkosinathi Dlamini and Sibusiso Gumede, among others, recommended the investigations into the defunct Takatso Consortium 51% takeover of SAA be referred to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and other law enforcement entities.

This comes as the committee itself lacked the forensic capacity to determine the truth of the signatures denied by former director-general (DG) Kgathatso Tlhakudi, but presented as authentic by Gordhan.

“Tomorrow (Thursday) is too soon for us to make declarations, we still have to go back to our individual parties to meet and discuss,” Gondwe said.

In his letter stripping the committee’s draft report, Gordhan said it was based on unfounded allegations of irregularities in SAA’s strategic equity partner transaction, and was with respect, irrational, legally flawed and replete with factual inaccuracies and mendacity (distortions and lies).

Gordhan said the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) had deduced that the committee had a predetermined outcome on this matter, despite the information and documents that the DPE furnished that proved otherwise.

He said the committee seemed not to be clear on how to classify the letter of the former DG to the Speaker (Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula) who was on special leave. The committee sometimes called it a petition and other times a protected disclosure.

“It is indeed an overreach by a portfolio committee on the functions of the executive. Lastly, be reminded that the principle of separation of powers should be adhered to and Parliament should be careful not to enter the realm of the executive, especially in commercial transactions,” Gordhan said.

He disputed concerns by the committee that despite writing numerous requests to Gordhan to submit the relevant documents to counter the allegations made by the former DG, the minister had only submitted some crucial documents as requested very late into the investigation with conditions for non-disclosure agreements and meeting to be held in camera.

He said rules of National Assembly made provision for an in camera meeting.

However, concerns in the committee’s draft report included that the documents were submitted late and the lack of transparency on the SAA transaction and the lack of documentary evidence further cast aspersions and doubt on whether the SAA transaction was indeed above board.

The committee said it could not determine the exact valuation of the SAA/Takatso transaction as the the new valuation details were not submitted to the committee.

Gordhan said the old valuation was submitted to the portfolio committee while the new valuation was not finalised at the time of submission of documents.

“However, we verbally indicated what the new valuation was in the meeting of the committee. To remind the committee, let me repeat: value of the business R1 billion (previously 0), value of properties R5.5bn (previously R2.4bn).”

The committee raised concern that the documents that the minister failed to submit were critical for the committee to be able to test the veracity of the allegations.