Publication: News24 Issued: Date: 2001-03-01 Reporter: Sapa Editor:

DA to Remain in Scopa

Publication  News24
Date 2001-03-01


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Cape Town - The Democratic Alliance will continue to participate in Parliament's watchdog public accounts committee (Scopa), despite having walked out of a meeting in protest earlier on Wednesday, the DA says. 

DA MPs walked out of a Scopa meeting earlier in the day when it became obvious an ANC majority view - that the committee never intended to include the Heath investigating unit in the R43-billion arms probe - would stand in a vote. DA public accounts spokesperson Raenette Taljaard told journalists in Cape Town the party would not leave the committee, and would participate in all future Scopa votes. 

She said it was the first time in the history of Scopa that committee members were forced to vote on an issue. The committee has previously always come out with a consensus report. Taljaard said the ANC had shown contempt for parliamentary procedures by refusing to allow a minority view into the report.  

She accused the party of "kow-towing" to intimidation from the executive.  

Deputy President Jacob Zuma and four Cabinet ministers have criticised the committee for calling for Heath's inclusion in the probe. National Assembly Speaker Frene Ginwala last year argued the committee's resolution - adopted by the House in November last year - did not necessarily call for the unit's inclusion.

The resolution recommended a multi-agency probe into the deal.  

The ANC's motion had undermined the integrity of Scopa chair Gavin Woods, and "perverts the intention of the legislature". "The DA refuses to capitulate to the strong-arm tactics of the executive... and refuses to be party to such a vote," Taljaard said, before she and her colleagues left the meeting.  

The voting continued without the DA, and was won by nine votes to zero in favour of the African National Congress' interpretation. Scopa chair Gavin Woods (IFP) and United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa abstained from the vote.  

Woods and opposition members had argued that all members of Scopa had agreed the unit should be part of the probe. Taljaard said the ANC had blatantly politicised a proud and traditionally non-partisan committee. It had undermined investor confidence in South Africa, which demanded the "highest standard of ethical transparency and the highest standard of respect for Parliament as a legislative institution".  

Taljaard said that while the motion placed Woods in a difficult position - as his interpretation had been over-ridden - the DA had strong faith in his ability as chairman of the committee.

Woods said it was unfortunate that the DA had walked out of the meeting and felt the party's members had "erred in doing so".  

He also told Sapa that although the motion called into question certain actions taken by the committee, he had no intention of resigning his position. Taljaard and some of the DA members of the committee had been absent from the meeting when the committee decided to vote on the issue.

No member objected when the ANC put forward that only the majority view should be accepted.  

The party argued that the issue had been discussed extensively without consensus and should be settled "once-and-for-all" through a vote. ANC MP Don Gumede had earlier accused the DA of paralysing the committee by refusing to accept the majority opinion of the interpretation issue.  

"We must move on the mandate that was given by the people."  

There was no parliamentary rule stating the public accounts committee could not vote to reach agreement, he said. 

With acknowledgment to Sapa and News24.