Durban - Veteran ANC member and chairman of Parliament’s ethics committee, Ben Turok, is under 24-hour guard after threats to sabotage a parliamentary investigation into the irregular awarding of a R6-million contract to the boyfriend of axed communications minister Dina Pule.
The former anti-apartheid activist said two VIP guards were “accompanying me everywhere”, but warned he was not easily intimidated. “I’ve been in much tougher spots in my life than this,” the octogenarian treason trialist said.
The ANC declared on Friday that decisive action would be taken against any ANC member found to be behind the death threats against not only Turok, but also ethics committee registrar Fazela Mahomed.
The pair are Parliament’s ethics committee’s joint chairman and registrar. The committee found Pule guilty of failing to disclose the interests of her romantic partner, Phosane Mngqibisa.
The case against Pule hinged on allegations that Mngqibisa’s company, Khemano, was brought in to stage an ICT Indaba, and that the minister failed to declare that conflict of interest as required by Parliament’s Code of Conduct.
Khemano was paid R6m, despite another company having to be brought in to stage the event when it became apparent Mngqibisa’s firm lacked the capacity.
Pule was acquitted on one charge, relating to a gift from Mngqibisa of a pair of designer Christian Louboutin shoes.
The report recommends that Pule be reprimanded in the House by Speaker Max Sisulu, that she be fined 30 days’ salary, and that her privileges and right to a seat in Parliament be suspended for 15 days.
Turok said that while that may appear to be only a slap on the wrist, he believed her reputation would be dealt a “severe blow”.
The Hawks have confirmed they are investigating Pule in relation to the ICT Indaba.
At issue is the report of the joint committee on ethics and members’ interests, which alleges that two senior officials in the Communications Department perjured themselves in their attempts to mislead the parliamentary hearing, that witnesses were intimidated and that key documents were lost.
Turok said on Friday that he and Mahomed had been provided with VIP guards after Parliament’s protection services received information of a threat against the committee.
“I was given security and so was the registrar, in the shape of two staff of the protection services, and they’ve been fetching and carrying me from home to Parliament, and they’ve been accompanying me everywhere,” he said, adding he was unfazed by the developments. “I’m not easily intimidated.”
On Friday, ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said that should any of those behind the threats be found to be ANC members, “the organisation will not hesitate to take stern action against them”. He called on police to investigate the matter and bring to book those behind the threats.
Pule consistently denied during panel hearings that Mngqibisa was her permanent companion, insisting he was a “friend”. However, testimony showed he had accompanied her on trips abroad and had shared her hotel suites.
Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale said on behalf of the SAPS that an investigation had been launched and a threat analysis done. While it had not indicated any immediate danger, the threat was being taken seriously.
“Also, there is no information or evidence at this stage which suggests the involvement of any particular person or persons with regard to the alleged threats,” he said. - Independent on Saturday