Publication: News24 Issued: Date: 2004-10-14 Reporter: Tisha Steyn Reporter: Donwald Pressly

De Lille, Woods 'Will Testify'




Date 2004-10-14


Tisha Steyn, Donwald Pressly

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Cape Town - The National Assembly may have to provide permission to Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille and the former Standing Committee of Public Accounts chairperson Gavin Woods to appear in court as witnesses in the Schabir Shaik trial.

But De Lille said they would appear in court even if parliament asked her not to do so.

De Lille, said shortly before departing to Athens to attend a conference, that if she faced contempt of parliament, she would have to take that option.

Noting that it was her that in the last parliament had raised the matter of possible corruption in the arms deal, she said that it was incumbent on her to appear in court. Shaik is on trial over alleged corruption in the deal.

Both De Lille and Woods have been subpoenaed to appear in court but National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete issued a statement on Wednesday saying that MPs had to obtain permission to appear as State witnesses.

Noting that it had been reported in the media that the two members had been called as witnesses, she said in general, members were not prohibited in law from giving evidence before a court or administrative tribunal.

"However, if they give evidence on the records of proceedings or the evidence given before, or any document submitted to Parliament or any of its committees, section 10 of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act, 2004, provides that such members first obtain the permission of the House of Parliament concerned."

This would mean that the National Assembly would have to approve of the two persons doing so.

De Lille said: "I was never formally informed by parliament that I should ask permission (to appear in court)."

She said that she had been copied a letter sent by Mbete to the National Director of Public Prosecutions noting that she would have to get permission to do so.

De Lille had written back to Mbete asking for permission to appear. But she said if she failed to grant her permission "I will testify because I can't ignore a subpoena".

Woods said he had got a letter from former Speaker Frene Ginwala in March - before the April elections - saying she had been approached by the then Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka who said he wanted Woods to appear in court in the Shaik trial.

A letter written to him by deputy president Jacob Zuma in January 2001 is expected to be examined in the trial. It questioned the motivations for Scopa's investigation of the arms deal.

Woods said he had sent a letter to Mbete on Wednesday evening, noting that it was likely the Zuma letter - written to him in January 2001 - would be examined and that he would like permission from her to refer to it. He could not say whether he would appear in court at this stage without the expressed permission of parliament.

With acknowledgements to Donwald Pressly, Tisha Steyn and News24.