File photo: Nokuthula Mbatha  AfricanNewsAgency (ANA).
File photo: Nokuthula Mbatha AfricanNewsAgency (ANA).

Des van Rooyen to challenge public protector's findings on Gupta meeting

By ZELDA VENTER Time of article published May 22, 2019

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Pretoria - Former cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Des van Rooyen turned to the Gauteng High Court Pretoria to set aside the report of the public protector in which it was found that he lied to Parliament about visiting the Gupta compound in Saxonwold.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane last year found that Van Rooyen had violated the Executive Ethics Code and the Constitution. 

She called on President Cyril Ramaposa to take appropriate action against Van Rooyen.

He now  said in papers before the court that her findings are factually unfounded, irrational and unreasonable.

Van Rooyen asked the court to find that he did not deliberately mislead Parliament when he replied to a question posed to him by DA member John Steenhuisen in Parliament in April 2016.

This was a few months after former president Jacob Zuma appointed Van Rooyen on December 9, 2015, to a short lived stint as finance minister. 

On December 13, 2015 Van Rooyen was appointed as minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs until February 26, last year..

Steenhuisen asked Van Rooyen whether he or any of his deputy ministers met with any member of the Gupta family since taking office.

Van Rooyen said it is clear the question was specifically directed at him in his capacity as minister. 

Thus he gave the “truthful” answer that “the minister and his deputy ministers have never met with members, employees or close associates of the Gupta family in their official capacities.”

Media reports stated that: “Minister Des van Rooyen visited the Gupta family residence in Saxonwold several times in the run-up to his short lived tenure as finance minister.” The reports claimed that “the minister visited the Gupta home on consecutive days between December 2 and 8.

DA member Kevin Mileham lodged a complaint with the public protector in which he claimed Van Rooyen had lied to Parliament.

He stated in court papers that he only took office as minister on December 9, 2015. He said he did meet with the Gupta family on December 7, 2015, but this was in his capacity as  the treasurer general of Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA).

He said he was specifically asked whether he had met with the family since he took office as finance minister. As he was only appointed on December 9, 2015, he did not lie to Parliament, Van Rooyen said.

He said the public protector was well aware that the Parliamentary question only related to the period since he took office as finance minister. 

Mkhwebane, among others, told Van Rooyen that his denial that he had visited the Guptas was not consistent with the investigation done in the State of Capture Report, in which his cellphone records showed that he was in the Saxonwold area on December 8 - a day prior to his appointment as finance minister.

“I submit with respect that my presence in or near the Gupta residence on December 8, 2015, is irrelevant to the Parliamentary question, as it only related to the period since I  took office as the minister of finance. I wish to repeat that I was only appointed as minister on December 9, 2015. It is therefore irrelevant to the investigation of the public protector, or the complaint that had been lodged against me,” Van Rooyen stated.

According to him he was thus honest and frank when he answered Steenhuisen and it was clear that he did not mislead Parliament.

“Her findings adversely affected my right to human dignity….I have since been removed from my position as the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs  and there are chances that further action will be taken against me in Parliament.”

Van Rooyen said the conclusions of the public protector are clearly wrong.

The review application was set down for hearing this week, but it was moved to the opposed motion roll and to be heard at a later date. Opposing papers must still be filed.

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Pretoria News

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