Turok: Parliament's credibility at stake

Allegations of interference in Dina Pule's Parliamentary hearing are being investigated.

FILE: Parliament. Picture: Chantall Presence/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Chairman of the Parliamentary Ethics Committee which found former communications minister Dina Pule guilty of misconduct, says he's extremely concerned about Parliament's credibility after allegations of interference in Pule's hearing have emerged.

_The Sunday Times _reported that Pule's boyfriend Phosane Mngqibisa allegedly planned to arrange the murders of chairman Ben Turok and the Registrar of Member's Interests, Fazela Mohamed.

Days before this information emerged, Pule was found guilty of misconduct and lying under oath by the committee which was set up by President Jacob Zuma to investigate allegations of maladministration.

Speaking to Talk Radio 702's John Robbie on Monday, Turok said three of the witnesses who gave evidence in Pule's hearing were interfered with through attempts to get them to withdraw their evidence.

He also said he didn't understand how Mngqibisa's bodyguard gained access into Parliament during the hearing.

"When Mr Mngqibisa came to give evidence, he was accompanied by a bodyguard. He was standing outside the door of our committee. He could not come in. When we had a coffee break, he spoke to the registrar and asked her a number of questions. She was very perturbed about that and felt very uncomfortable."

Turok said he was told about this when he was chairing the hearing, but said he and the committee was so busy, they didn't do anything about it.

"At that stage, one didn't feel threatened or seriously concerned about security."

PARLIAMENT UNDER THREAT

He said subsequent to that, the head of Parliament's security came to tell him the story about the alleged hit and the falsification of documents.

"It is a very serious matter. It's not simply a matter of my person, it's Parliament which is at stake."

He said the matter is now with the police.

"I have personally written to the National Police Commissioner and to the Minister of Police and I actually had a discussion with the Minister of Police one on one. We also had a discussion with the Speaker of Parliament. It is now at the highest level."

Turok says apart from the hit, the question of interfering with the procedures of Parliament threaten to set a very dangerous precedent.

"If this is the way Parliament is going to be treated, goodness knows where it'll end."

When asked about suggestions that Pule may be involved, Turok said he didn't have any knowledge of that.

"Not as far as I know but I keep out of the investigation. My job is Parliament not the investigation, so I leave it to the authorities to look into that."

HARSH ENOUGH PUNISHMENT?

Pule was fined a full month's salary and suspended for 15 days.

When asked if this was a harsh enough punishment, Turok said the maximum punishment was laid down by the rules of Parliament.

"It's now up to Parliament to decide whether it wants to increase the punishment. Certainly, the committee and I will recommend an increase in such punishments in the future."

He said it will be interesting to see what happens to the employees who helped cover for Pule.

"Let me say there was collusion between the minister and the officials and we did say that in the report. Goodness knows what will happen to the officials. There's now a new minister and no doubt he will be interested in that aspect."

He said that he's glad the committee agreed unanimously on its findings.

"One thing pleases me a great deal is that our committee was unanimous firstly in the panel which did the investigation. There were four parties present and we were unanimous. When we reported it to the main committee again, we were unanimous. So parliament from that point of view has been united in opposing this kind of behaviour."

Meanwhile, the police remain tight-lipped about whether Pule had been questioned about the assassination plot claims.