Defence committee chair convicted of theft

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The chairman of the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans Mnyamezeli Booi has been convicted of theft related to the abuse of Parliamentary travel vouchers.  

Booi, 49, yesterday pleaded guilty to theft in the Cape Town Regional Court and was fined R50 000, or five years in jail, and given until January 2014 to pay the money in monthly instalments of R1000.

He was given an additional one year jail term, conditionally suspended for five years.


The plea and sentence were in terms of an agreement with prosecutors finalised shortly before his appearance, the SA Press Association reported.

In the plea bargain Booi admitted that he had used travel warrants meant to pay for flights on Parliamentary business to pay for car rental worth R92 000 and hotel accommodation worth R20 000.

The agreement recorded, however, that he had made “full restitution” to Parliament, and that he had shown remorse, SAPA added.

Booi was the last of some 30 MPs implicated in the so-called “Travelgate” affair to be convicted.

All the others entered into plea agreements, but Booi, who made his first court appearance in February 2005, had appeared determined to take on the State in a full trial.

SAPA adds four travel agency bosses, including that of the agency that helped Booi commit the offences, are still facing charges. They will go on trial in the Western Cape High Court in February.
 

The Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party in the National Assembly, says Booi should now step down as portfolio committee chair and MP.

“It is commendable that he has admitted to his indiscretion, deputy chief whip Mike Ellis said in a statement. “Mr Booi must now take responsibility for his actions and resign his chairmanship of the Portfolio Committee and as a Member of Parliament. He cannot continue in either position with this cloud hanging over his head.”  

Ellis says the conviction comes against the backdrop of a series of statements by President Jacob Zuma and ministers demanding increased accountability and the better stamping out of corruption.

“Accountability counts for nothing if it is not accompanied by consequences,” Ellis said.

Booi is highly unlikely to step down. Several of the other MPs, who also plea-bargained, were returned to Parliament in April.



Pic: Mnyamezeli Booi