Des van Rooyen admits asking Guptas' help for MKMVA

Cape Town - Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des van Rooyen has admitted to meeting the Guptas to enlist their help for the Umkhonto We Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA).

The meeting came to light in a report by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, in which she found that Van Rooyen deliberately misled Parliament when he answered a question about his meetings with the Guptas.

In his response to the Public Protector, Van Rooyen admitted that he met with the Guptas in his capacity as the MKMVA treasurer general. 

Political business

"I am a treasurer general of the MKMVA and part of my responsibility is to meet business people to enlist their support into our programmes. It is in that capacity that I have met the members of the Gupta family," read Van Rooyen's response to the Public Protector.

However, in reply to a Parliamentary question posed by DA chief whip John Steenhuisen in 2016, on whether he has ever met with the Guptas, Van Rooyen said: "The minister and his deputy ministers have never met with members, employees and/or close associates of the Gupta family in their official capacities."

The 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 misled Parliament and thereby transgressed the Executive Ethics Code.

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

Call for action

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.

The report was published on Friday.

Van Rooyen denied that he misled Parliament, arguing that he confined his answer to his capacity as the minister of finance.

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. 

Connecting the dots

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.