The Public Investment Corporation (PIC) commission of inquiry into impropriety is scheduled to continue on Monday and a labour federation has upped the ante, calling for the head of Deputy Minister of Finance Mondli Gungubele after it emerged that he may have misled the commission in his testimony.
On Monday, Gungubele testified that he had not been put under pressure to resign; however, another testimony alleged that this was not the case and that Gungubele had received a phone call from Finance Minister Tito Mboweni during a board meeting instructing him to resign or be fired.
For this, a labour federation is demanding that Gungubele step down from his post as deputy minister.
Zwelinzima Vavi, the secretary general of the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to discipline Gungubele, whose leadership had led to a dysfunctional PIC board after all nine board members resigned on February 1, he said.
The resignations came in the wake of allegations levelled by a whistle-blower calling himself “James Noko”, who accused Gungubele of colluding with fellow board member Sibusisiwe Zulu.
According to reports, Zulu is alleged to be at the centre of a corruption and nepotism patronage network at the PIC, where her live-in lover, businessman Lawrence Mulaudzi, is alleged to have benefited from deals at the embattled institution to the tune of R6billion.
“The president needs to take steps to discipline (Gungubele). What will happen in the future if he is redeployed somewhere else?” Vavi asked.
“If he has led the PIC to the state of being dysfunctional and then he lies on top of that, it means that regulations need to be changed.
“The government needs to find a man of integrity to be the chairperson of the PIC and to take out the weight of politicians who get appointed as chairpersons, because the board will find itself in a position where they cannot disagree with the chairperson because of political consequences, which is why the PIC has deteriorated to where it is now,” he said.
Vavi also called for Gungubele to be charged for alleged perjury and for him to be removed as a deputy minister until the PIC commission had concluded its inquiry.
He said Gungubele had to be replaced by someone of high ethical standards at the institution who was not attached to the government as it had now been proven that having a politician as the head of the PIC did not work.
“From where I’m standing, there has been lot of political interference beyond what we are told. The board of the PIC is under a lot of pressure which comes from a question from patronage.
“Gungubele wants to entrench himself and use the PIC for his own benefit. The commission needs to analyse and assess if the evidence he has given is credible.
“So far, with everything that has transpired, what is he still doing there when the minister told him to resign?
“It’s because corruption is allowed within the ruling party and it’s unfortunate that workers are not privy to what is happening at the PIC, yet it’s their money that is being misused by politicians and their proxies.”
Vavi also said that it was unfortunate that mainstream media had not given the full negative impact of political intrusion at the PIC.
“Gungubele is supposed to be declared delinquent. He is not supposed to be anywhere near public funds. Even if he is taken out of the PIC, he will be deployed elsewhere. He should just stay away from public funds,” he said.
Responding to the allegations that he may have misled the commission, Gungubele said he had undertaken not to comment until the commission had concluded its work.
“I do not want to create another commission outside the inquiry.
“I would like to request that we let the commissioner reach a verdict on the matter. I have never had anything to hide and I sleep well at night. I don’t want to engage further on what happened till the commission reaches its verdict. If the judge’s views are that I misled, I will live with consequences of that,” he said.
Zola Saphethi, the secretary general of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), said anyone who was implicated in the PIC allegations needed to be subjected to legal processes, especially board members who presided over the alleged corruption and looting of the state institution.
“The ministers who are deployed to chair the PIC need to be honest and if anyone provides misleading information, the president must do what is in his power. The current minister presiding over the fund cannot be trusted.
“We do not mind who is chairing the commission, but they must be a person of character and credibility. People who have been implicated in corruption cannot be trusted,” Saphethi said.
He said Nehawu wanted amendments to the PIC legislation to give more powers and representation to the workers, who needed to have an input on how their money was being managed. He added that a legal team had been appointed by the union to observe the proceedings of the PIC commission and would communicate its thoughts through a statement on Wednesday.
Saphethi said: “Those who are implicated must face the music. We will look at what areas of criminal elements we can pick up and get the Hawks involved. We will be making a statement and giving feedback.
“The commission needs to start looking at Steinhoff and other white-owned businesses that have been ripping off pensioners’ money with disastrous consequences.”
DA MP and finance spokesperson Alf Lees said he believed that although the board was dysfunctional from a practical point of view and that an ultimatum for the board to resign had been given by the minister, it was important to make a distinction that they had not been fired when they resigned.
“It is clear that the minister of finance has lost confidence in his own deputy minister. The board tended their resignation pending appointment of a new board.
“They can still be held accountable.
“We will make sure of that, even if they later leave because people don’t escape accountability.
“However, if I were one of those board members, I would not take any decisions that were detrimental to their future,” said Lees.
“Therefore, the board can be considered dysfunctional from a practical point of view as it is highly unlikely that they are going to function with clouds over their heads.”
Professor Sipho Seepe, a political analyst and former ministerial adviser, said there was a problem in some of the commissions that were taking place where people swear under oath to tell truth but get contradicted as the commissions progressed.
He gave the example of former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor’s testimony at the state capture commission of inquiry.
“Mentor said a number of things then retracted her statement. There are other people who had had to change statements. The commissions need to deal with that because we now have people who are wilfully and deliberately misleading parliamentary processes yet they took oaths of office. These people mislead knowingly so.
“The commission must take exception to that. People must be truthful when they take oaths of office. Perjury is something that they need to take seriously because these inquiries are now becoming places where people go to settle personal scores and the issue of truth becomes second rate.
“Parliament needs to challenge him through their code of ethics. When commissions are set to deal with factional battles they tend to boomerang and take on a life of their own. Bosasa is a prime example of this.”
Matome Seima, an advocate of the High Court of South Africa, said if one has lied under oath at a commission of inquiry they could be found to be criminally liable for perjury.
“It happens many a time where a witness will testify in court and be found to be lying and they could be prosecuted for perjury. It is important to note that where people knowingly do not tell the truth, the implications are that their evidence will be found to be untrustworthy.”
Independent Media has also been reliably informed that the secretary general of the Black Business Chamber, Sizwe Ngqame, intends to write to Parliament’s ethics and members interests committee to investigate if Gungubele lied under oath.
A source close to the developments said: “Parliament must investigate Gungubele for lying. I know the chamber intends to submit a letter to Parliament and to assess if Mboweni lost confidence in his deputy."
The Sunday Independent