Yengeni to Face Ethics Committee Probe
African National Congress Chief Whip Tony Yengeni
would be given seven days to reply to a Democratic Alliance complaint that he
may have failed to declare a gift of a luxury vehicle, said the chair of
parliament's ethics committee on Monday.
This follows a request by DA Chief Whip Douglas
Gibson for an investigation into the matter by parliament's joint committee on
ethics and members interests. Committee chair Sister Bernard Ncube on Monday
said she had yet to receive Gibson's complaint. However, once it was received,
she and the Registrar of Members' Interests Fazela Mohamed would write to
Yengeni requesting answers to the allegations within seven days.
Yengeni may have acquired a luxury Mercedes-Benz 4x4 as a
Once his reply was received a full committee
meeting would be called and the need for a sub-committee to be established to
investigate the allegations discussed.
Gibson said in a letter to Ncube, released to the
media, that a cloud would hang over parliament until the issue was settled. He
was reacting to a report in the Sunday Times that suggested Yengeni may have
acquired a luxury Mercedes-Benz 4x4 as a kickback from a company involved in the
controversial R43-billion arms deal. Gibson said Yengeni should make a statement
explaining the full circumstances surrounding the vehicle rather than waiting
for inquiries and investigations to be concluded.
"If he does so I may well advise you that it
is not necessary to proceed with your own investigation," the letter says.
Yengeni says he will consider his legal
"However, I must emphasise that until that
happens there is a cloud hanging over parliament and its good reputation and
that cloud needs to be dispelled. "Only an impartial and thoroughgoing
investigation can do that."
If Yengeni had received the car as a gift he
should have declared it on the register of members' interests. He had failed to
do so, Gibson said. Yengeni appeared, at the very least, to have had free use of
an expensive vehicle for seven months. "The benefit entailed was not
disclosed to your committee and it is therefore necessary to ask why no
disclosure was made," the letter says.
The committee should also consider whether it was
appropriate for the chairperson of the defence committee to enter into a
contractual arrangement with a company that either itself or its affiliate were
involved in tendering for arms contracts, said Gibson.
The Sunday Times reported that Yengeni had
mysteriously acquired a Mercedes-Benz 4X4 while serving as the chairman of
parliament's joint defence committee that played a role in the decision to buy
Yengeni was responsible for piloting the Defence
Review through parliament which, among other things, called for new defence
A spokesperson for DaimlerChrysler SA, Annelise
van der Laan, on Monday said a senior employee of DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (Dasa)
bought the vehicle that was later registered in Yengeni's name. She declinded
during an interview on Cape Talk radio to name the individual, saying the matter
was the subject of an internal investigation.
DASA, through a joint venture, secured a contract
to supply tracking radar for the corvettes bought in the arms deal package. The
vehicle's official records show it was dispatched from DaimlerChrysler's East
London plant on September 15, 1998. It arrived at the company's stockyard on
October 19. Three days later it was registered in Yengeni's name in Pretoria and
a few days later was licensed in Cape Town. However, Yengeni only started paying
instalments on the vehicle seven months after it was registered and only after
rumours in parliament that he had acquired the vehicle as a gift, the newspaper
Traffic department records list the titleholder -
the banking institution that owns a car until it is fully paid up - as Stannic.
Stannic says it cannot find any agreement on the
vehicle and that the last finance agreement with Yengeni was for a different car
Yengeni has since concluded a finance agreement
with DaimlerChrysler Financial Services.
Yengeni says he will consider his legal options.
In terms of parliament's joint rules, failure to
declare an interest would mean that Yengeni, if found guilty by the committee,
would face one or more of the following penalties:
a fine not exceeding the value of 30 days'
a reduction of salary or allowances for a
period not exceeding 15 days; or,
the suspension of privileges or a member's
right to a seat in parliamentary debates or committees for a period not
exceeding 15 days.
Yengeni earns more than R396 000 a year.
With acknowledgement to Sapa and Quickwire.