Mboweni’s defence of former journalist Ranjeni Munusamy turns into a spectacle
Cape Town - THE oral question session of the National Assembly this week was meant to have been an opportunity for MPs to grill Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on his decision to appoint a former journalist in his office, but it turned into a spectacle and a shouting match between opposition parties.
Mboweni was scheduled to answer questions from EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu who had asked why Mboweni appointed Ranjeni Munusamy as an community outreach officer despite being implicated in unduly benefiting from the funds of the Crime Intelligence Unit.
Shivambu also asked if the position was advertised and what her functions were.
In his response, Mboweni told how highly qualified Munusamy was and the appointment was within the legislative prescripts.
Shivambu's colleague Ntombovuyo Mente pushed him to answer on the implication of the former journalist at the Zondo Commission and whether she was on his payroll because Munusamy was writing his book.
The minister charged that the claim that the official was writing his book was an urban legend by EFF whom he said created stories that weren't true.
He went further to state that his book was written by a different ghost writer and would be published when he is over 70 years old.
Turning on the cloud over Munusamy, Mboweni said he had been satisfied that she could work for him after asking her about the allegations made against her at the commission.
He even alluded to frog marching her from his office should be found to have committed a wrong doing.
"She is competent and a good South African as far I am concerned unless other facts come at my disposal which at the moment have not come. People must leave her alone, you know," Mboweni added.
In a follow up question, DA MP Geordin Hill-Lewis asked him if he should share what Munusamy had explained to him and whether he should reverse the appointment.
His response was that he had no reason to believe she had lied to him and would not want to say anything the commission could find to have been an interference on his part.
"As I speak now I am satisfied she is indeed qualified and a good person to work in this capacity. She is a person. Let's give her time to work," he said before finding an opportunity to lash out on the EFF for raising the allegations.
"If we work on that basis a number of EFF members should not be in Parliament actually because there are accusations against them about VBS. You should be careful how you phrase and deal with matters like this," he quipped.
Mente in turn responded that EFF never went to the commission and had never received money from their accounts.
It was at this point that NFP's Manzoor Shaik Emam came to express his shock in his six and half years in parliament to hear an “absurd" question from Shivambu.
As expected, Shaik-Emam could not finish posing his question as EFF shouted points of orders with EFF MP Natasha Ntlangwini stating he could not finish speaking.
"That's the rules," she said.
When Shaik Emam was given an opportunity to withdraw his remarks and restate his question, he started off from where he left off and repeated the issue of "absurd" question and went on to refer to looting.
The red berets would hear none of it and raised points of order and some screaming "nonsense".
Even Shivambu rose on a point of order and made his own accusations, along with his colleagues, that Shaik Emam would be fired by the NFP for stealing party funds.
Chair of the session Grace Borotho ordered Shaik-Emama to make substantive motions if they want to make allegations against other members.
Cries of inconsistency in the ruling by Borotho were made with ACDP MP Steve Swart complaining that he was forced to withdraw earlier after making broad allegations about MPs.
She pointed that a name was mentioned and when Shivambu complained, she reminded him of the accusation he made against Shaik Emam.
When it was time for Mboweni to respond he said Shaik Emam had made a statement. But went further to say: I think I answered to the best of my abilities.”
Earlier, Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe was asked about criminal and disciplinary action in connection with the sale of the oil reserves when Tina Joemat-Pattersson was minister.
Mantashe said the matter was in court and that no money and oil was lost by the state.
"The money and stock is in our storage in Saldanha," he said.
Mantashe said they had resolved to settle the court case and then pursue action against officials that were implicated.
"We were able to discover in an affidavit new people involved in transgression of the law in selling the stock," he said, adding that a criminal charge was opened with the Hawks.
"Disciplinary cases are an issue once we finish the main case as new people within the department are being revealed to be culprits," he said.
DA MP Kevin Mileham asked him if he would take action against Joemat-Pettersson in his capacity as the chairperson of the ANC.
While the question asked him not in his capacity as minister, Mantashe noted that Mileham was stretching his luck.
He said they wanted to settle the court case and if any member appeared in the list at that point, they would invoke ANC policies.
But newly-elected EFF MP Phiwaba Madokwe pressed him on Joemat-Pettersson when she asked why only officials were held accountable, not deployees.
Mantashe noted that the opposition MPs were keen to nail down Joemat-Petterson.
He said if Joemat-Petterssen's name cropped up in the report on sale of oil reserves, she would not be leave out.
"We are not to pursue officials and leave politicians. There is no official we have pursued up to now."