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MPs clash over a need for an inquiry into state capture

State capture on the government and the use of state resources came under the spotlight in Parly yesterday.

A screen grab of DA leader Mmusi Maimane addressing Parliament. Picture: YouTube

CAPE TOWN - State capture and its impact on South Africa's democracy and its economy sparked a heated debate in the National Assembly, with Members of Parliament (MPs) clashing over the need for a Parliamentary inquiry.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) got the backing of a number of opposition parties in its bid for lawmakers, armed with subpoena powers, to unravel allegations of undue influence over government and access to state contracts.

But while African National Congress (ANC) benches were empty for much of the debate yesterday, they filled up when it came to the vote and the proposal was rejected - with 169 votes against, 103 in favour and one abstention.

The outcome was predictable, but it gave opposition MPs full rein.

Parliament will not be launching an inquiry into state capture.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said, "When the Guptas say 'we want a coal mine', number one says, 'we'll do one better, I'll get you your own minister of Mineral Resources.'"

The Economic Freedom Fighters' Fana Mokoena said, "We know for a fact that the presidential convoy was outside the Gupta's family [home] on the day that Mineral Resources Minister [Mosebenzi] Zwane was appointed."

The ANC's Zet Luzipho fought back.

"Political hooliganism and liberal brinkmanship are a deadly combination… as the ANC we see no reason to have a parliamentary committee on a matter that has no foundation in law."

As the United Democratic Movement's Mncedisi Filtane noted, when private interests influence governments to their own advantage, it's the poor the jobless and the marginalised who suffer.

At the same time, The DA has now accused the ANC of "pulling Parliament's teeth" in order to protect Zuma and the Gupta family, while the ANC says the opposition party is guilty of political grandstanding.

The Parliamentary inquiry the DA wanted would have had the power to summon people and institutions to appear before it, necessary, according to party leader Mmusi Maimane, because of the ANC's inability to call President Zuma to account.

"We know that many of you sitting on this side are worried about state capture. So why don't you stop it? I'll tell you why. Because you can't. Because your party has been captured by the Guptas through your president as [their] proxy."

The ANC in Parliament says the allegations are serious and should be properly investigated by the police, or the Public Protector.

Luzipho added, "If Parliament were to do anything genuine, Parliament can only consider making it possible for institutions that are created to deal with matters of this nature, not to reduce Parliament into an investigation tool."

'THE GUPTAS ARE NO VICTIMS'

Congress of the People MP Willie Madisha claimed that South Africa was "morphing into a Mafia state" and references were made to Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane as "the Ambassador from Saxonwold", where the Guptas have a home.

The DA's David Maynier kicked off the debate, insisting that the Guptas were neither the victims nor the "champions of the workers" that they claimed to be.

"But the truth is the Guptas are not victims. The Guptas and the businesses controlled by them are the subject of multiple investigations by the Hawks, by National Treasury and the South African Reserve Bank. Which of course explains why the ambassador from Saxonwold contracted a political hit on the financial sector, the National Treasury and the SA Reserve Bank in the first place."

The DA's call was backed by a number of opposition parties, including the EFF, the Inkatha Freedom Party and the Freedom Front plus.

But ANC MPs questioned the motives for the call, its MPs referred to what was described as attempts at corporate capture by private sector oligarchs who try to subvert lawmaking to serve their own interests and that this is getting in the way of developing a people's democracy

Luzipho asked opposition parties why they wanted an inquiry when they had already come to conclusions about state capture.