The ANC says it will not be drawn into speculation on the cause of death of its long-serving member of parliament, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, 59, who died this week.
Joemat-Pettersson’s death came just a week after being at the centre of bribery allegations to make a parliamentary inquiry “go away”.
She was found dead at her Rondebosch, Cape Town, home on Monday with no official confirmation from police on the cause of her death.
She had been implicated in a bribery scandal in which she was accused of soliciting a bribe from David Skosana, the husband of suspended Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, to make the parliamentary inquiry probing Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office “go away”.
Speaking to the Sunday Tribune about Joemat Pettersson’s death this week, ANC national spokesperson, Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri said that they would await the medical reports instead of focussing on speculation.
Social media users speculated that Joemat-Pettersson had committed suicide, but the ANC said that it was not in the business of formulating theories.
Bhengu-Motsiri said that they had no basis for any suspicions around her death.
“We are treating them as rumours, just rumours, because we can’t give legs to something that has not been collaborated by medical evidence. From where we are sitting, she has left this world and like any other human who passes on, you have to allow professionals to do the work that they need to do.
“If there is anything untoward, I am sure they will unearth that and that will be the basis for a more fact-based commentary. We can’t make any speculation and we can’t join the social media frenzy based on rumours or speculation. We are a very responsible party,” Bhengu-Motsiri said.
She urged the public to give Joemat-Pettersson’s family as much space as possible because she belonged to her family first, before she belonged to the ANC.
“Those that can comment on social media can afford to do so because they don’t understand the weight of losing someone and allowing the family to be the ones to lead this thing. The family will advise society and will advise the ANC and the ANC will communicate in turn,” Bhengu-Motsiri.
On the allegations that Joemat-Pettersson had been extorting money from Skosana, Bhengu-Motsiri said that they had instructed the ANC parliamentary caucus to move ahead with speed to get to the bottom of the allegations.
“The investigation is still on the way, it will also be premature to say anything outside of that investigation,” Bhengu-Motsiri said.
She added that the party would be advised by Joemat-Pettersson’s family on the date and venue of the funeral as this was a family matter, while the ANC national officials had sent a delegation to interact with the family on issues around the funeral.
ANC first deputy secretary-general Nomvula Mokonyane on Wednesday said that Joemat-Pettersson would be given a private burial although a date has yet to be set.
Mokonyane also indicated that a national memorial service would take place in Kimberley on Wednesday, while the ANC Women’s League would have a national memorial service on Thursday.
Joemat-Pettersson served in the Northern Cape provincial legislature as the MEC for Education, Arts and Culture and later the MEC for Agriculture and Land Reform.
In the National Assembly she served as the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and later as Minister of Energy.
She had recently served in parliament as the chairperson of the portfolio committee on police.
National police spokesperson, Colonel Thandi Mbambo said that police were not aware of any case registered against the death of Joemat-Pettersson, but there was a case of extortion that was registered and was still under investigation.