Disgraced former communications minister Dina Pule was reprimanded and suspended by Parliament for the scandal that saw her boyfriend benefit from state funding.
Speaker Max Sisulu told Pule she had betrayed her oath of office and brought Parliament into disrepute, after the ANC moved for the adoption of a damning report by an ethics panel. It was unanimously supported by all parties.
“Your direct contravention of the provisions of section 96 (ii) of the Constitution by allowing your position to be used to improperly benefit your permanent companion shows indifference to our Constitution, which is unacceptable,” Sisulu told Pule today.
He said she had shown “complete disregard” for the privileges members of Parliament enjoyed and the trust the public placed in them.
Sisulu confirmed that Pule would be excluded from parliamentary debates and meetings for 15 days from tomorrow and fined a month’s salary as an MP. Parliament would also hand the report to police and prosecuting authorities for further investigation.
The penalties are the strongest Parliament could impose after the ethics committee found Pule had wilfully misled it about her romantic relationship with Phosane Mngqibisa, who accompanied her on numerous official trips abroad.
Pule rose from her seat in the back-benches and offered a brief apology.
“I want to say to this house that I gave the best I could do to do my job, and that if in the course of me doing my job I made a mistake, I am sorry, I apologise.”
ANC MP Ben Turok, who co-chairs the ethics committee, told the National Assembly he was dismayed at Pule’s attitude during the five-month investigation into how financial benefits flowed towards Mngqibisa, and his company.
“Throughout the hearings it was clear that there was collusion between Honourable Pule and some senior officials in presenting a false version of her activities.”
Turok has stated that the ethics panel would have imposed tougher penalties still on the former minister, who sought to deny her relationship with Mngqibisa, had the parliamentary code made provision for those.
He told MPs it was imperative that the code be reviewed speedily. This process had been in the pipeline for years, but had not yet been completed.
“We asked for this on several occasions and we ask for it again – a speedy revision of the code of conduct. We also recommend that the penalties for transgressions be increased.”
He termed the investigation “a long, drawn out affair” and lamented that three people, including a communications department official who had testified, “had been subjected to bullying to try to get them to reverse their testimony”.
The panel found that Pule had failed to declare that Mngqibisa benefited materially from the sponsorship of last year’s information and communications technology event, the ICT Indaba, which her department hosted in Cape Town.
Pule was sacked from her portfolio in a Cabinet reshuffle in July. Her sanction by Parliament also includes being told to correct her incomplete declaration of interests.
ANC chief whip Stone Sizani welcomed the steps taken against her and said he hoped it would discourage transgressions by public servants.
“The ANC has consistently condemned and demonstrated intolerance towards impropriety, both in the public and privates sectors, as it corrodes our society’s moral fibre.
“We are therefore confident that Parliament’s decision today [Tuesday] against the former minister will go a long way in discouraging improper conduct and ensuring public representatives execute their public responsibilities strictly by the book,” he said in a statement.
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