Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2004-10-13 Reporter: Sapa

NPA Believes Woods Allowed to Testify



Mail and Guardian

Date 2004-10-13



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The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) believes it has already obtained permission for former public accounts committee chairperson Gavin Woods to testify at Schabir Shaik's fraud and corruption trial.

"As far as we know, we do have permission. He is coming here in terms of what happened in the last Parliament and our understanding is that permission allows him to do so," NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said in Durban.

This follows a warning by National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete that two MPs due to give evidence at Shaik's trial at the Durban High Court will need Parliament's permission.

It was reported on Wednesday that Woods had already been given permission by former speaker Frene Ginwala after a request by former national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka.

But chief parliamentary legal adviser Eshaam Palmer insisted that the current Parliament and its office bearers are not bound by the decisions made by former members.

Mbete said that in general, MPs are 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, certain legislative provisions come into effect.

Section 10 of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act provides that such members first obtain the permission of the House of Parliament concerned.

If the relevant House is not sitting, the Speaker of the National Assembly or the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, as the case may be, or a person delegated by them, can grant permission.

"Failure to obtain permission may render a member guilty of contempt of Parliament in terms of the above Act.

"The purpose of this provision is to ensure that Parliament is in control of its internal arrangements, proceedings and procedures, and the manner in which members and staff communicate these outside of Parliament, as provided in the Constitution," Mbete said.

Asked if the NPA will reapply for the permission, Ngwema said: "We will if we have to but we think that Parliament is going to cooperate fully because this process was brought to us by Parliament, and Parliament is not going to raise any obstacles."

With acknowledgements to Sapa and the Mail & Guardian.