Des van Rooyen denies misleading Parliament

Cape Town – Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des van Rooyen stuck to his guns after Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found that he had misled Parliament about his meetings with the Guptas.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Van Rooyen said he has noted with concern media reports alleging that he had misled Parliament.

"It is concerning that I heard this rumour of a report through the media, which was supposedly published on Friday (February 9, 2018), and [it] was never forwarded to me or being alerted of it, even I am cited in it, (sic)" Van Rooyen said.

READ: Des van Rooyen admits asking Guptas' help for MKMVA

DA MP Kevin Mileham, who once called Van Rooyen a two-minute noodle during a parliamentary sitting, filed a complaint with the Public Protector, alleging that he had misled Parliament and thereby transgressed the Executive Ethics Code.

In a Parliamentary question in 2016, DA chief whip John Steenhuisen asked Van Rooyen whether he has ever met with the Guptas.

He responded: "The minister and his deputy ministers have never met with members, employees and/or close associates of the Gupta family in their official capacities."

Mileham made reference to reports that Van Rooyen had visited the Gupta home in Saxonwold several times in December 2015, shortly before his short-lived tenure as finance minister.  

According to his statement, Van Rooyen made it clear that neither he nor his deputy ministers have ever met in their official capacities in government with members, employees and/or close associates of the Gupta family.

Meeting Gupta family as an MKMVA member

"Minister Van Rooyen has never disputed that he met anyone associated with the Gupta family outside of his portfolio. As a treasurer general of the Umkhonto We Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), part of his responsibilities is to engage the business community to enlist their support into various programmes they are undertaking," reads the statement. 

"It is in that capacity that I have met the members of the Gupta family," Van Rooyen said.

"The minister responded to the questions by the public protector, emphasising the distinction between his capacity as the minister and as a treasurer general of the MKMVA," reads the statement.

However, in her report, Mkhwebane dismissed this argument.

Mkhwebane found there was nothing in Steenhuisen's question that referred to him meeting the Guptas in his capacity as a minister. 

"The question specifically related to the period since he took office as a minister. The emphasis of the question was clearly on when he met with the Guptas and visited their residence and not in which capacity," reads Mkwhebane's report. 

Mkhwebane found that Mileham's complaints were substantiated and prescribed that the president must take "appropriate action" against Van Rooyen for violating the Executive Ethics Act and the Constitution.

The president must then, within 14 days upon publication of her report, submit a report with comments to the National Assembly, and the director general in the Presidency must within 60 days, submit a report to the Public Protector on the actions taken against Van Rooyen.

Van Rooyen said the office of the Public Protector is important and integral to our democratic society and its growth. 

"It is however disappointing that this office err in its final report, which minister has thus far not seen yet. (sic)"

The report is available on the Public Protector's website.

"It is therefore surprising now that I would be accused of having deliberately misled Parliament when I answered the questions I was asked," said Van Rooyen.

A disciplined member

He emphasised that he "has always been and will continue to be a disciplined member of the executive and will not deliberately violate the Executive Ethics Act and the Constitution".

This is not the first Gupta-related finding by a Public Protector against Van Rooyen.

In her final report - State of Capture - Mkhwebane's predecessor Thuli Madonsela connected Van Rooyen to the Guptas after his cellphone records placed him in Saxonwold.

Mkhwebane also referred to this finding in her correspondence with Van Rooyen after he responded to the complaint, stating that his response wasn't consistent with the State of Capture report.

Van Rooyen said that evidence cannot be used, as the State of Capture report is under judicial review.

In her report, Mkhwebane stated that the evidence isn't under review, nor has it been set aside by a court. She also said she didn't rely on it to make her findings. 

Mileham said in a statement on Monday that he has also written to Parliament to request that the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs investigate state capture.

The MKMVA has been staunch defenders of President Jacob Zuma and led the attack against Pravin Gordhan prior to his removal as finance minister.

It was also alleged that the disgraced, Gupta-enlisted PR firm Bell Pottinger helped the MKMVA to write media statements, which the MKMVA leadership denied.