Pretoria - Parliament has found former communications minister Dina Pule guilty on all but one of the charges she faced and has found that she “wilfully misled” Parliament during its investigation into her conduct.
The joint ethics and members’ interest committee recommended maximum penalties be imposed on Pule, including docking a full month’s salary and a public reprimand.
The main issue in the case related to the intimate relationship between Pule and Phosane Mngqibisa, whose company, Khemano, benefited financially from the department.
Pule gained the attention of Parliament’s ethics watchdog after two MPs asked that she be investigated and after several newspaper reported allegations that Mngqibisa had benefited from the ICT Indaba the department hosted last year.
Criminal charges may be pursued against certain officials in the department who colluded with Pule and committed perjury.
The multiparty panel, made up of MPs, investigated allegations of nepotism and abuse of funds against Pule for a period dating back to before she was appointed communications minister.
The joint committee on ethics and members’ interests met on Wednesday to finalise the report by the panel it had appointed to examine the allegations against Pule.
Allegations were also made that Mngqibisa had bought Pule a pair of expensive Christian Louboutin shoes as a gift, but that she had failed to disclose this. No finding was made on this allegation as the panel was unable to corroborate the evidence.
After a long and detailed investigation, the panel found that Mngqibisa was Pule’s “de facto” permanent companion or spouse.
In her affidavit, Pule denied having a “permanent companion” as stated in the code of conduct, but confirmed she had a “long-standing friendship” with Mngqibisa.
“Through that relationship, he was able to obtain government funding for overseas trips and participate in official meetings despite having no formal departmental role,” said joint committee chairman Buoang Mashile.
Mashile said the panel also found that Pule had “wilfully misled” it and that several officials of the department might have committed perjury in their evidence and “colluded” with Pule.
He said the committee recommended the maximum penalties allowed by the joint rules of Parliament, namely, a reprimand in the National Assembly, a fine equivalent to a month’s salary and the suspension of privileges for 15 days.
Pule - who was axed as minister during a recent reshuffle, but who remains an MP - would also be excluded from any parliamentary debates or committees during this period.
Joint chairman Ben Turok said the kind of influence Mngqibisa was able to exercise as a result of his association with Pule went beyond the ICT Indaba itself “and perhaps other terrain that we still have to see what happens”.
He said the period involved was about four years and that Pule’s association with Mngqibisa went back as long.
“So we had to, as a… panel… investigate the activities over that period,” Turok said.
“It was extremely difficult because the file dealing with one of these trips was lost in the Department of Communications. Officials came and told us that in evidence.
“More seriously, the officials were very reticent in indicating just how these matters are handled.
“In the department there does not seem to be total clarity on how the companions of ministers record their trips and how this is managed.”
Turok said these actions were criminal in nature.
The “perjury of some officials is of course criminal” and it would be up to the authorities to investigate.
“We also have recommended that police and the National Prosecuting Authority investigate the breach of the Powers and Privileges Act of Parliament, which lays down severe penalties for lying,” Turok said.