Travelgate MPs get prime jobs

Time of article published May 23, 2009

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By Political Bureau

ANC choices to head up powerful parliamentary oversight committees have sparked controversy, with the opposition DA accusing the ruling party of "moral bankruptcy" by elevating four MPs implicated in the Travelgate fraud scandal.

And civil rights group Afriforum is outraged over the decision to keep outspoken ANC MP Butana Komphela in charge of the sport and recreation committee.

The four MPs are former chief whip Nyami Booi, Ruth Bhengu, Beauty Dlulane and Barbara Thompson. Booi is due in court in early June in connection with charges related to the fraud.

He insists he is innocent and is the only MP implicated who did not admit guilt in a plea bargain and agree to repay money owing.

Afriforum CEO Kallie Kriel said Komphela's retention was a setback for South African sport.

The controversial MP caused a stir during his previous tenure in charge of the committee when he stated that the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) was "full of whites and Indians" who did not understand transformation. He also threatened to have the national rugby team's players' passports withdrawn.

Kriel said any successes achieved by South African sports teams over the next five years would "not be thanks to Komphela's influential position, but despite it".

He said Komphela's ill-considered statements had made a mockery of his position and embarrassed the country as a whole.

DA parliamentary leader Athol Trollip said on Friday committee chairs played a critical role in holding ministers to account.

He said they needed to be "beyond reproach" if MPs and the public were to have full confidence in their ability to do this, and that the selection of the four Travelgate MPs illustrated "the ANC's moral bankruptcy".

The DA received a slap in the face this week when it was not given a single committee or other key position.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe made it clear the party was being punished for DA leader Helen Zille saying President Jacob Zuma had jeopardised his wives' health by having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman.

Trollip has said he wants constructive, rather than destructive, engagement as the opposition, but has now found himself in a political dead end.

Zille's comment is a handy excuse for the ANC to use to isolate the DA, which has returned to Parliament with more seats than ever.

While the DA had hoped it would be given the chairmanship of one of Parliament's most powerful committees - the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) - it was clear this was never on the cards as it would have opened up the possibility of a fresh arms deal probe.

Trollip said: "The ANC is scared of a DA Scopa chair because they know we would leave no stone unturned in exposing corruption."

Mantashe was unrepentant, however, insisting the ANC would not work with a "hostile" party.

The party was also angered by the DA in the Western Cape, where it is in power, excluding the ANC from any positions of influence.

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