Telling empowering stories, South Africans want to hear

Wednesday, 13 December 2023 20:08

Gordhan withholds key documents on SAA sale from Parliament.

By Carol Paton.

Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan has refused to provide two crucial documents on the sale of SAA to Parliament, with the matter now referred to the Speaker to decide further action. 

Gordhan, who handled the sale of 51% of SAA to the Takatso Consortium singlehandedly, without advisors, has refused to provide the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises with the shortlist of bidders and the sale and purchase agreement signed with Takatso. The transaction has not been concluded as some of the conditions precedent are still outstanding. 

The committee says that, as a result, it cannot give its unqualified support to the transaction because it has been unable to ascertain all the facts. It resolved on Wednesday that it would report to the Speaker on its unsuccessful attempts to exercise oversight of the deal. 

The committee has been trying to extract the documents from Gordhan for almost a year.

Gordhan initially said he would provide these, but later said it was impossible to do so, citing confidentiality agreements with Takatso. 

The committee's determination to see the documents arose from a hearing with former director-general of the department, Kgathatso Tlhakudi, who has alleged that the transaction did not follow the prescripts of the law.

In particular, Tlhakudi says that Takatso was not on the shortlist provided by advisors to Gordhan before they departed and, secondly, that the sale and purchase agreement had been withheld from him, even though he was the department's accounting officer. 

Tlhakudi was dismissed in June and lost a bid for reinstatement at the Labour Court. 

The chairperson of the committee, Khaya Magaxa, said in concluding the meeting:

We didn't want to bulldoze anyone, and we wanted to give people space, but it was very difficult to get the evidence. The committee cannot give its unqualified support to the transaction as all we have in our hands are allegations. The minister has not helped us to dispel the allegations.

Parliamentary legal advisor Andile Tetyana appeared at the committee on Wednesday to advise on the committee's options following Gordhan's refusal. 

Tetyana identified three options. These include the following:

That Gordhan's refusal to cooperate be reported to the Speaker as per the Parliament Oversight and Accountability model;

That the committee invokes Section 56a of the Constitution and summons the documents; and

That the committee declare that it cannot support the transaction because it is shrouded in secrecy.

Tetyana said it was notable that Gordhan had not suggested an in camera hearing with the committee. 

Among other things, the Speaker can appoint an ad hoc committee to investigate the transaction. The DA had suggested that the documents be summonsed immediately, and the EFF had backed the suggestion for an ad hoc committee to investigate the entire transaction. While ANC MPs expressed their displeasure at Gordhan's arrogance and lack of accountability, they took the softest option to refer the matter to the Speaker. 

At the same time, though, ANC MPs were also concerned with protecting themselves from any blowback in the future. 

ANC MP Sibusiso Gumede said that by taking the matter to the Speaker, it would be up to her to decide what action to take and it would simultaneously protect the committee's integrity.

"We are exempted if ever there is anything interpreted to be corrupt," he said. 

Thokozile Malinga, also from the ANC, said: "People are looking at us as if we are lenient. They must know [from our report to the Speaker] that we have done our best.

"SAA belongs to SA, not to individuals." 

The committee is the second oversight body to express concern over the Takatso transaction.

The Auditor-General also noted that the department did not follow a transparent process to select the strategic equity partner.