Ayanda Dlodlo. Picture: THE SOWETAN
Ayanda Dlodlo. Picture: THE SOWETAN

Parliament's ethics committee has found that public service and administration minister Ayanda Dlodlo breached the code that guides MPs' conduct when she did not declare her stay at Dubai's Oberoi Hotel, which was paid for by controversial businessperson Fana Hlongwane.

Dlodlo's sanction will be a reprimand in the House.

In June 2017‚ DA MP Phumzile van Damme lodged a complaint with the committee following a report published by the Sowetan newspaper on June 5 2017 that Dlodlo‚ then public service and administration deputy minister‚ stayed at the luxury hotel in 2015 and enjoyed spa massages‚ room service and car hire — none of which she paid for.

The article alleged that the Gupta-owned company Sahara booked the accommodation but Hlongwane paid the invoice.

Dlodlo was charged for not disclosing the benefit‚ as is required by the code of ethical conduct and disclosure of members' interests.

A report of the joint committee on ethics and members' interests published by parliament on Monday reveals that Dlodlo told the committee‚ which meets behind closed doors‚ that she and Hlongwane were childhood friends and that they considered themselves “sister and brother”.

Dlodlo explained that while she and Hlongwane were not blood relatives‚ Hlongwane’s biological father housed and cared for her and her family.

“Therefore‚ the member [Dlodlo] was considered family of Mr Hlongwane according to ‘African culture’,” reads the report.

It further states that when Dlodlo undertook to meet Hlongwane in Dubai‚ she never saw it as anything other than a holiday with her brother.

“The member categorically stated that at no time was she linked to any Gupta business‚ that she never met the Guptas and that she has never accepted anything from the Guptas.”

Dlodlo further told the committee that the reason she did not declare the stay at the Oberoi Hotel and the additional benefits of spa massages‚ room service and car hire was because she considered Hlongwane her brother.

MPs disagreed‚ according to the code which provides that gifts and hospitality in excess of R1,500 from a source other than a family member or permanent companion or gifts of a traditional nature must be disclosed.

The committee also ruled that while the code refers to a “family member”‚ its definition section refers to “immediate family” — meaning only a member’s spouse‚ permanent companion or dependants.

The penalties provided by the code against offending MPs include a reprimand in the House, a fine not exceeding the value of 30 days' salary, a reduction of salary or allowances for a period not exceeding 30 days, or the suspension of certain privileges or an MP's right to a seat in parliamentary debates or committees for a period not exceeding 30 days.

The committee recommended that Dlodlo be reprimanded in the House and that she be ordered to rectify the breach and be counselled on the requirements of the code.

Dlodlo said in a statement she accepted the ethics committee conclusion.  

“As the record will show, I have been fully transparent and truthful about my trip and the fact that Mr Hlongwane paid for my accommodation,” she said.

“It was my own admission that served as the basis from which Honourable Van Damme submitted a request to the ethics committee to investigate. I fully respect the decision of the ethics committee which found that my interpretation of family members fell short of the committee's own definition of a family member in terms of the executive ethics code.

Another ANC MP‚ Nyami Booi‚ was found guilty of breaching the code for his failure to declare a R60 000 monthly salary from a company called Lurco Coal. Booi entered into an indefinite agreement with the company on December 1 2015 to act as a consultant on a nonexclusive basis‚ advising on stakeholder relationship management, among other things, on an ad hoc basis.

DA MP James Lorimer lodged a complaint against Booi in May 2017‚ complaining that Lurco had entered into contracts with Eskom. He charged that Booi's actions went against the code‚ which prohibits MPs from undertaking remunerative work outside of parliament that is not sanctioned in terms of the code.

The report reveals that Booi acknowledged the business consultation agreement with Lurco. He apparently expressed regret and stated that it was an oversight that he did not disclose the information. “The member undertook to rectify the nondisclosure with immediate effect‚" reads the parliamentary report.

The ethics committee recommended that Booi be reprimanded in the House and that he be fined an amount equal to 45 days’ salary.

With Linda Ensor