A pair of parliamentarians are not ready to accept an explanation of being sent “from pillar to post” and want the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) task team to continue investigating allegations of financial impropriety against former defence minister and current National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
The allegations against the then holder of the defence and military veterans portfolio in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet were made by United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa in April. The former two-star general asked the JSCD, under the leadership of co-chairs Cyril Xaba and Elleck Nchabeleng, to investigate apparent abuse of Department of Defence (DoD) funds to “travel extensively in 2019 costing the taxpayer over R7 million, seemingly paid by AB Logistics, an Armscor division”.
Other allegedly questionable spending of National Treasury allocated funds Holomisa asked the JSCD to look into includes “a solo five-day stay” at a luxury hotel on New York’s Central Park and a further hotel stay, this time for six days in “the Deluxe King Suite of the Hotel Du Collectionneur Arc de Triomphe in Paris.” Holomisa maintains the hotel stay cost just over R200 000 with an Avis transport bill of almost R150 000.
The JSCD agreed the Holomisa allegations were “serious” and it “took time to initiate an investigation but a non-commitment to share information with the committee made the process futile”.
Going further, the committee asked for an affidavit to start the investigation “but the whistleblower refused to comply”.
The JSCD views “all corruption allegations in a serious light, but is of the view allegations should be backed by credible information to support allegations”.
“The committee cautioned against spurious allegations because of potential damage they might have on an alleged offender,” adding the matter is now closed as there is nothing the committee can work on.
In a statement the UDM leader said he took “a dim view” of the whistleblower’s statement not being disclosed to the task team adding the hiding of evidence essential to a Parliamentary investigation is “most unethical, if not criminal”.
“The JSCD co-chairs and committee support staff seemingly ran a parallel process to the task team formally charged with investigating the matter and produced a sanitised report discounting answers to questions posed to the whistleblower,” Holomisa’s statement continues adding “these highly irregular acts brought the JSCD and Parliament into disrepute”.
A more measured response came from Kobus Marais, the Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister.
He wants the JSCD to continue its probe into the Holomisa allegations saying the decision not to proceed is “premature” and overlooks the importance of the whistleblower’s statement “despite it raising significant claims needing comprehensive investigation”.
“This,” Marais maintains, “suggests the Speaker (Mapisa-Nqakula) may have used her power and influence to prevent an investigation into her conduct continuing”.
If the JSCD investigation is not resuscitated, Marais says criminal charges will be brought against Mapisa-Nqakula.
“A whitewashed investigation and side-lining of elected Members of Parliament cannot continue,” he said.