Publication: Quickwire Issued: Date: 2001-03-26 Reporter: Sapa Editor:

Yengeni to Face Ethics Committee Probe

Publication  Quickwire
Date 2001-03-26
Reporter Sapa
Web Link

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 kickback 

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 options 

"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 the arms. 

Yengeni was responsible for piloting the Defence Review through parliament which, among other things, called for new defence equipment. 

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 stated. 

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 in 1993. 

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: 

Yengeni earns more than R396 000 a year. 

With acknowledgement to Sapa and Quickwire.