No integrity, no problem for our MPs

Parliament’s limited censure of Mosebenzi Zwane, who took benefits from the Guptas and helped them buy a mine, shows how MPs seem to still defend state capture

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03/05/2023 13:04:55

.Image:  Then President Jacob Zuma congratulates Mosebenzi Zwane on his appointment as Minister of Mineral Resources in September 2015. Picture: Flickr/GovZA 

No integrity, no problem for our MPs

Mosebenzi Zwane, an alleged architect of state capture, former minister, current MP and a seemingly good friend of the Guptas, retains his seat in Parliament in return for a trivial sanction for disgracing his office and the country.

“Mosebenzi Zwane not only brought Parliament into disrepute, but also the country, and he should not have been appointed as an MP for the Sixth Parliament. Not only was he an MP, but he chaired the Portfolio Committee on Transport until late last year,” says Rudie Heyneke, OUTA’s expert on state capture.

“The findings of the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests confirmed that there are MPs with no integrity or ethical values. In my view, South Africa cannot afford to have individuals like Zwane occupying positions in Cabinet, in Parliament or in any sphere of government.”

The committee’s findings are the result of two complaints, a detailed complaint submitted by OUTA in October 2017 and a complaint from the DA, and consideration of the report of the State Capture Commission. The committee used OUTA’s complaint as the primary source document.

Although it took more than five years, OUTA welcomes the approval by the National Assembly of the sanctions recommended by the committee. However, we feel that the lengthy time it took to process this complaint and the limited sanction against Zwane may indicate that our parliamentarians are still defending state capture and do not regard failures of ethics as particularly important.

On 2 May 2023, the National Assembly approved the committee’s recommendation of a fine of five days’ of salary (less than R20 000) for taking benefits from the Guptas which would have been worth considerably more (it included a flight on the Gupta private jet from Switzerland to Dubai), his suspension from his seat in Parliament debates for one parliamentary term (effectively a paid holiday for up to eight weeks), and ordered him to apologise to the National Assembly for the incorrect media statement he issued in defence of the Guptas while a member of an Inter-Ministerial Committee, and for the appointment of Gupta associates as his advisors. Zwane has already shown his disdain for Parliament by failing to turn up on Tuesday when the National Assembly approved the sanctions and he was expected to apologise.

There were no findings on other allegations in the complaints: that Zwane’s appointment as Minister of Mineral Resources in September 2015 was orchestrated by the Guptas; that when he was the Minister mine rehabilitation funds worth about R1.8 billion for the Gupta-controlled Tegeta mine were released (OUTA took court action to block that deal); that he discussed Cabinet business with the Guptas and took instruction from them; that as Minister he tried to persuade banks to keep the Gupta accounts open; that he lied to Parliament in seven replies to questions from MPs; and that he was continually absent from the parliamentary committee he sat on.

Zwane remains an MP.

OUTA believes that Zwane should be in jail instead of in Parliament. 

OUTA has repeatedly called for action against Zwane. In addition to our complaint to the committee in 2017, we made a submission to the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources in May 2018 on his activities. In October 2019, we made a detailed referral to the National Prosecuting Authority’s Investigating Directorate in terms of section 27 of the National Prosecuting Authority Act. This referral included all alleged wrongdoing from the time he was appointed as MEC in the Free State and includes allegations of his receipt of gratification when the Guptas sponsored a choir tour to India, allegations on the R280 million Estina dairy project, his misrepresentation of Cabinet decisions and other Gupta-related allegations.

On 28 September 2022, Zwane was arrested and appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on charges relating to the Estina dairy project, a target of state capture. The 15 accused between them face charges of fraud, theft, corruption, money laundering and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act. Much of our referral to the NPA included information relevant to this case.

Until October 2022 (after his arrest), Zwane held the powerful position of chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Transport. This committee oversees the Department of Transport and its entities, but has failed to interrogate the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project debt and why it hasn’t been paid off despite the transfer from National Treasury to SANRAL over the years of more than double the amount of the original debt, has failed to hold anyone to account for the collapse and looting of PRASA, and has done next to nothing about the failed transport entities the Road Traffic Management Corporation, Road Traffic Infringement Agency, Road Accident Fund, Driving Licence Card Account and Maritime Safety Authority. This is the price of having an incompetent, unethical person in a key position.

More information

An OUTA explanation on Mosebenzi Zwane’s activities and our attempts to hold him to account, written in January 2020, is here.

OUTA’s complaint of October 2017 to the Joint Committee is here.

The report of the Joint Committee is here.

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