Deputy Public Enterprises Minister Ben Martins.  Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Deputy Public Enterprises Minister Ben Martins. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

The state attorney acting on behalf of Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has threatened to report the evidence leader of the parliamentary inquiry into state capture, Nthuthuzelo Vanara, to the General Council of the Bar if he fails to respond to the attorney’s letter complaining about the way the inquiry is being conducted.

Vanara has already responded to the letter, which was the subject of discussion by the public enterprises committee — which is conducting the inquiry — at the end of proceedings Wednesday.

Vanara has told the state attorney that the allegations are without any merit and are rejected with the contempt they deserve.

 

He has also said he has told the state attorney to go ahead and lay a complaint with the General Council of the Bar.

Brown and Deputy Public Enterprises Minister Ben Martins have complained about what they say has been the procedural unfairness of the inquiry because testimony about third parties who were not present has been offered without hearing their version of events.

The committee has stressed that those implicated will be given an opportunity to respond and MPs emphasised that they would not be intimidated.

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said Brown and Martins’s conduct went “against the grain of Parliament’s oversight role”, and they had jumped the gun with their accusations of unfairness.

Following the receipt of the state attorney’s complaints, Parliament sought the legal opinion of senior counsel Wim Trengove.

Even before the inquiry got under way, Brown had written letters to the committee expressing concern over the manner in which it would be conducted.

In his opinion, Trengove said Parliament was entitled to determine its own processes, proceedings and working arrangements in fulfilment of its duty to hold the executive to account.

The law confers a wide mandate on parliamentary committees to undertake investigations and public hearings, Trengove said.

The inquiry was clearly inquisitorial and not accusatorial, Trengove said, and could proceed even if other legal processes were underway at the same time.

The committee was also entitled to have regard to the leaked Gupta e-mails and decide what weight to attach to them.

Trengove stressed that everyone against whom the committee reached an adverse finding should be given the right of reply.

Brown also raised the question of whether former finance minister Pravin Gordhan was not subject to a conflict of interest. Trengove said it was not necessary for Gordhan to recuse himself.

Counsel also found that Vanara was not conflicted in being both registrar of Parliament and evidence leader.

Support for Vanara

Members of the committee earlier had come out strongly in support of Vanara.

Gordhan said Vanara had conducted himself with “absolute integrity” and had proved himself an excellent public servant.

He said Martins’s statement was a blatant attack on Parliament.

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