The portfolio committee on mineral resources wants former minister Mosebenzi Zwane to account for allegations of state capture against him.
The committee has expressed particular interest in Zwane’s role in the sale of Optimum coal mine and other mining assets from Glencore to the Gupta-owned Tegeta Exploration and Resources.
This was established in a meeting on Wednesday, where the portfolio committee on mineral resources met to draw up terms of reference for its own inquiry into allegations of state capture against the former minister.
The committee’s chairperson Sahlulele Luzipo explained that setting parameters to the committee’s scope of investigation has been necessitated by the fact that there are already two quasi-judicial proceedings investigating state capture.
An inquiry into state-owned entities is ongoing in Parliament, while former president Jacob Zuma also appointed a judicial inquiry into state capture before his resignation.
The committee reached an agreement that the inquiry should also focus on the department’s alleged non-compliance with the Public Finance Management Act under Zwane’s leadership which resulted in fruitless and wasteful expenditure related to travel arrangements.
Also in the spotlight will be the handling of the mining rehabilitation funds by Zwane’s department. There have been allegations that rehabilitation funds from Gupta-owned mines had been used for purposes not related to the department and that some of these funds were unaccounted for.
The inquiry will also look into the appointment and dismissal of departmental officials by Zwane, particularly to establish if these were subject to “external undue influence” or done without sufficient cause.
In particular this relates to the dismissal of the Mpumalanga regional manager – subsequently reinstated after a ruling by the Labour Court – who was dismissed after he issued a compliance notice against Gupta-owned Koornfontein mine.
ANC MPs Motswaledi Matlala and Zwelivelile Mandela questioned the purpose for this particular committee since Zwane was no longer a minister, along with the fact that a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture was in place.
They also argued that law enforcement agencies were already dealing with issues around state capture.
Luzipo explained that, according to advice from National Assembly House chairperson Cedric Frolick, the committee should investigate Zwane’s tenure in office and not the member himself.
DA spokesperson on mineral resources James Lorimer added that it was indeed the committee’s duty to determine “what went wrong within the department and to ensure it did not happen again”.
“The inquiry must also look at the performance of the department and how its actions benefited Gupta-owned companies to the detriment of other mining companies,” said Lorimer.
Zwane is alleged to have travelled to Zurich where he facilitated the sale of Optimum.
He is expected to be called to answer questions by MPs during the inquiry.
This will not be the first time an invitation will be extended to Zwane – the former minister has snubbed the committee on three separate occasions already. His excuses have ranged from illness, writing exams, and having “another meeting in the national council of provinces” which turned out to be false.
Allegations of Zwane’s involvement in the Estina Dairy Farm corruption – which led to the siphoning of state funds towards a Gupta wedding while Zwane was Free State MEC for agriculture – will not be considered by this particular inquiry.
The new inquiry is expected to start next month, taking a maximum of two months.
The committee agreed to ask Frolick to provide an evidence leader for the inquiry.
The inquiry partly emerges from the State of Capture report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela, which was released in October 2016.