Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2004-06-11 Reporter: Sapa

Mushwana Committee Rolls Up Its Sleeves



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Parliament's special committee considering Public Protector Lawrence Mushwana's report on the complaint by Deputy President Jacob Zuma against National Prosecuting Authority head Bulelani Ngcuka will finally get down to substantive discussions on Monday.

The committee seems set for lengthy debate between the political parties represented, after spending much of Thursday and Friday "flagging" the issues concerning them.

When the committee adjourned on Friday, most of the report had been flagged for in-depth discussion.

Now that the various parties on the committee have identified what they consider to be the key issues in the report, the way is clear for discussions and debate to begin in earnest.

Opposition parties, especially, indicated they would be seeking a large amount of documentation they believed would assist the committee in its work.

However, MPs from both the African National Congress and New National Party pointed out on a number of occasions over the past two days that the committee should not re-open Mushwana's investigation.

Carol Johnson of the NNP and Annelize van Wyk of the ANC, among others, warned against the committee overstepping its mandate.

They said the committee's task was not to re-open Mushwana's investigation, but simply to consider his report, and accept or reject the recommendations made.

The committee has set aside several days for meeting over the next two weeks, and is still hopeful of presenting its report to the National Assembly by June 24.

Mushwana's report, presented to Parliament on May 28, found it had been "unfair and improper" for Ngcuka to have said publicly there was a prima facie case of corruption against Zuma, but that Zuma would not be prosecuted.

He said a public statement by Ngcuka had impaired Zuma's dignity and improperly prejudiced him.

The report also said Ngcuka and former Justice Minister Penuell Maduna failed to co-operate with Mushwana when he was investigating the complaint against Ngcuka.

Ngcuka issued a statement in August 2003 saying there was a prima facie case of corruption against Zuma over the multi-billion rand arms deal, but he would not prosecute him as the chances of success were not strong enough.

Much public debate and media speculation about Zuma's possible corrupt involvement in the SA National Defence Force's arms procurement followed.

Zuma then complained to the Public Protector about Ngcuka's remark and about the way in which the criminal investigation against him was conducted.

Mushwana recommended in his report that Parliament take urgent steps to hold Ngcuka responsible for his "unfair and improper" behaviour towards Zuma, and his failure to co-operate with the protector's investigation.

With acknowledgements to Sapa and the Mail & Guardian.