National Treasury has called the attacks on its deputy director-general Ismail Momoniat by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) deputy president Floyd Shivambu ignorant.
Shivambu found himself in hot water for his comments during Parliament’s financial sector transformation committee meeting on Tuesday, where he accused Momoniat of “deliberately undermining African leadership” within Treasury. He proceeded to accuse Momoniat of assigning all the powers of National Treasury to himself.
Treasury’s communications officer Zwikhodo Singo on Thursday said that the EFF’s attacks on it were “based on ignorance” with regards to the policy-making function of the National Treasury.
Treasury said the accusations that Momoniat was allocating all the power of National Treasury to himself was “a figment of the EFF’s imagination”.
Treasury also accused the EFF of displaying “a gross misunderstanding of parliamentary processes” as Shivambu’s comments amounted to “abuse of parliamentary privilege” for singling out one member and “throwing mud at him”.
Shivambu expressed his dissatisfaction, in Parliament on Tuesday and again on social media, that Momoniat was always at Parliament’s standing committee on finance meetings and his presence, instead of other treasury officials, “undermines African leadership”.
The committee on Wednesday issued a statement distancing itself from Shivambu’s remarks and condemned Shivambu’s questioning of Momoniat’s right to be at the meeting.
However, the committee extended an invitation to Shivambu to engage further in these debates, but maintained that his “crude attack” on Momoniat and continued utterances on social media were “unwarranted and inconsistent with the nonracial principles necessary for a transformative agenda that addresses race, class and gender inequalities in South Africa”.
The committee also said it did not have evidence that Momoniat was corrupt, as Shivambu claimed.
“In fact, the committee knows him to be an extremely hardworking, honest, skilled and experienced official who served both the anti-apartheid struggle and the new democracy selflessly.”
Committee chair Yunus Carrim said: “We don’t have to compromise one iota on the need for African leadership while accepting the role of outstanding public servants like Mr Momoniat.”
Carrim added that MPs should not abuse their right to speak freely as stated in the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act.
On Wednesday afternoon, the ANC weighed in on the issue through its chief whip, Jackson Mthembu.
“Mr Shivambu’s erratic behaviour towards non-Africans is cause for grave concern. Earlier this year, Mr Shivambu physically assaulted a white journalist for taking photos of him on the Parliament precinct. This behaviour is utterly despicable from a member of Parliament,” said Mthembu.
The EFF has, however, thrown its weight behind its deputy president, saying it stands by Shivambu’s remarks that Momoniat undermines African leadership.