A senior ANC MP accused of not disclosing her interests and lying to the legislature’s ethics watchdog faced a grilling in Parliament on Thursday.
In an unusual move — the committee rarely acts on media allegations about members — Parliament’s joint committee on ethics and members’ interests started probing Yolanda Botha’s behaviour in February after the Mail & Guardian ran an investigation into Botha’s conduct when she was head of a Northern Cape government department.
Botha is the chair of Parliament’s portfolio committee for social development.
The M&G reported that she did not declare a family trust that had received shares in Trifecta Investment Holdings, a company that benefited from more than R50-million in leasing contracts from the social services department she headed.
The M&G also established that she had not declared extensive renovations made by Trifecta to her Kimberley home after she left the provincial government to become an MP.
Trifecta put the value of the renovations at R500 000 but insisted that it had lent Botha the required capital. She made the same claim to the ethics committee when confronted about her non-disclosure.
But subsequent investigations by the registrar of members’ interests found that the value of renovations was more than R1-million and so Botha faced an additional charge of having “wilfully misled” the committee.
Before the hearing, it was understood that Botha would plead not guilty to the charges, arguing that the family trust was not for her benefit but for that of her nieces and nephews.
However, the M&G has obtained a copy of an affidavit by Trifecta director Christo Scholtz, lodged in an unrelated court matter, stating that the shares were “accepted by Yolanda Botha, to transfer — to the nominee of Yolanda Botha”.
Botha does not have children of her own and nominated the children of her siblings as beneficiaries.
It is understood the registrar is in possession of the same affidavit.
In terms of the ethics committee’s rules, such hearings are held in camera. The M&G challenged this, with lawyers for the M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism arguing that the rule was unconstitutional as it ran counter to the principles of open justice, responsiveness and accountability.
But this was overruled by joint committee chairpersons Ben Turok and Lamias Mashile on the grounds that confidentiality was standard practice.
The committee is obliged to release a summary of its findings to the public on completion of any inquiry.
The Hawks are investigating the activities of Trifecta in the Northern Cape, which could implicate other ANC provincial leaders.
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