In response to my statement accusing the Acting Secretary to Parliament of complicity in keeping the report into those who lied during the SABC Inquiry under wraps, the Speaker of the National Assembly has revealed the lengths to which she is prepared to go to shield them.
In a Parliamentary statement released late on 13 July, Baleka Mbete notes that “[a]ny insinuation that the Speaker seeks to quash a parliamentary probe into these allegations is erroneous”.
She is correct in as far as no such insinuation has been made.
The report from Parliament’s Legal Services Unit detailing any witnesses who gave contradictory or misleading evidence during the SABC Inquiry is not related to any Parliamentary probe. Rather, the Ad Hoc Committee on the SABC Board Inquiry completed its work and finalised its report on 24 February 2017; this same report was adopted by resolution of the National Assembly during a sitting on 7 March 2017.
However, flowing from this report was the instruction that “Parliament’s Legal Services Unit, with the assistance of the Evidence Leader, should … identify the persons who misled the inquiry or provided false information or false testimony with the aim of criminal charges being laid”.
The Speaker correctly notes that a person who violates the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act is liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years, or both.
That is because lying to Parliament, under oath, is a criminal offence.
The Speaker has been given a report that should, as a matter of priority, be forwarded to the National Prosecuting Authority, not the Portfolio Committee on Communications.
Mbete has set herself a fake deadline of “sometime in August”, citing neither rule nor precedent. Indeed, she acted in bad faith when she “wrote to individuals cited on the list, inviting them to make submissions by the end of July on the serious allegations they face”.
Mbete’s actions beg the question, why have those who lied to Parliament been given three months to prepare their defence? And why is the representative of Parliament coming to the defence of those who lied to the Legislature, rather than the institution which has been wilfully misled?
In shielding senior ANC and government officials who lied during the SABC Inquiry, Mbete is once again prioritising her role as ANC Chairperson over her role as Speaker.
Parliament deserves a better Speaker. One that will defend the integrity of the Legislature from those who disrespects the institution and seek to escape accountability.