Johannesburg - Former communications minister Dina Pule betrayed her oath of office and brought Parliament into disrepute, Speaker Max Sisulu told her in Parliament on Tuesday.
The ANC then moved for the adoption of a damning report on Pule by an ethics panel - a move that was supported by all parties.
Despite this unanimity, ANC members immediately appeared to unite around Pule as formal proceedings ended.
The ANC reaction prompted the DA’s spokeswoman on safety and security, Dianne Kohler Barnard, to tweet: “Still shocked that ANC members mobbed Dina Pule like she was a rock star after being found guilty.”
Watty Watson, the DA’s chief whip, said on Tuesday night: “It is inexplicable… why Dina Pule has not been subjected to a disciplinary process from within the ANC, and accordingly lost her membership and her seat.
“The manner in which the chief whip and numerous ministers displayed support for Dina Pule in the House indicates they intend to only give her a slap on the wrist.
“The DA trusts that now that the report has been adopted by Parliament, it will be immediately handed over to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the police for further investigation without delay.”
In the House, Sisulu told Pule: “Your direct contravention of the provisions of section 96 (ii) of the constitution by allowing your position to be used to improperly benefit your permanent companion shows indifference to our constitution, which is unacceptable.”
He confirmed that Pule would be excluded from parliamentary debates and meetings for 15 days from Wednesday and fined a month’s salary as an MP. Parliament would also hand the report to the police and prosecuting authorities for further investigation.
Pule rose from her seat in the back benches and offered a brief apology. “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.”
Kohler Barnard said afterwards: “Here is someone who has just been referred to the police and the NPA for investigation, and given the most severe sanction that a parliamentary committee can hand out, and yet she was mobbed like someone who was being lauded for some great achievement.
“It seems to mean that the ANC - live in front of the whole nation - is saying it’s fine to lie to Parliament, to cheat the public and to do everything possible to try to get away with it. For the ANC to treat Parliament with such contempt is of massive concern and is frankly disgusting. We were shocked.”
One journalist tweeted: “ANC MPs including several ministers queue to hug Dina Pule as if she’s lost a puppy.”
United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa labelled Pule a “disgrace”.
“She should be taken out of the public office… She should be expelled from Parliament and disciplined within the ANC ranks. She has lied and embarrassed the House,” he said.
Pieter Groenewald, leader of the Freedom Front Plus, echoed Holomisa’s sentiments, saying it was clear that the rules and disciplinary measures in Parliament were inefficient.
“The rules and penalties should be revised to make sure a member in these circumstances ceases to be part of parliament,” he said.
ANC MP Ben Turok, the ethics committee co-chairman, told the Assembly he was dismayed at Pule’s attitude during the five-month investigation into how financial benefits had flowed towards her boyfriend, Phosane Mngqibisa, and his company.
“Throughout the hearings, it was clear that there was collusion between Honourable Pule and some senior officials in presenting a false version of her activities,”
Turok detailed how a private bodyguard had interfered with the committee, and how there had been bullying - and even talk of assassinations - while the committee did its work.