March 24, 2018

Speaker not responsible for non-payment for Speaker’s Ball

Following DA allegations directed at Speaker to Parliament, Baleka Mbete, over non-payment by service providers for this year’s Speaker’s Ball, Parliament’s Ethics Committee has ruled Mbete is off the hook.

In a parliamentary report lodged this week, the Ethics Committee agreed Mbete had nothing to do with the event or the embarrassing payment dispute that followed. What the Committee didn’t take into account was that it was Mbete’s daughter who organized the event, and landed her mom in an awkward situation.

Steenhuisen alleged that service providers enlisted by, or on behalf of, Mbete for her Speaker’s Ball held at a Camps Bay hotel following the State of the Nation Address in February remained unpaid and were starting to institute legal proceedings against the Speaker for non-payment of services rendered.

Speaker hit back hard, stating categorically that she had nothing at all to do with the misnamed Speaker’s Ball. It was privately organised and she was told it was privately funded.

Speaker only acted in a supporting role to assist in resolving the matter by the speedy payment of the money owed.

Her response is clearly stated in the Ethics Committee’s report: “The organisers hosted the event in celebration and acknowledgement of the leadership of women in society, including herself as Speaker. The event was privately organised by Ms Nonkululeko Kgositsile (the main organiser) and it was funded or resourced through private funding. The organisers contracted with Novice, an Events Company, to organise and manage the event on behalf of the main organiser.”

What the Ethics Committee report fails to take into account is that the “main organiser”, Nonkululeko ("Nkuli") Kgositsile, is almost certainly Mbete’s daughter, from a previous marriage to Willie Kgositsile, shown above with her mom at the ball?

That could explain why, even though this messy business had nothing at all to do with her, the Speaker nevertheless took a lively interest in the dispute over payment which followed. She even said she tried to assist – in her capacity as a leader, she told the Ethics Committee.

Here is the verbatim extract from the Committee’s report:

“A few days after the event, she became aware that [event organiers] Novice had not been paid what was owed them by the organisers. She was further made aware that as a consequence, Novice could not pay the service providers it had entered into contracts with. She thereupon made enquiries with the main organiser of the event and facilitated engagements between the main organiser of the event and Novice to speedily and amicably resolve the matter.

“At all times, after the event, she only acted in a supporting role to the main organiser to assist her in resolving the matter by the speedy payment of the money owed.

“She was informed that the money due to the service providers was paid to Novice.”

Her only role was to ensure “that what was otherwise a good gesture by well-meaning people was not marred by an unfortunate incident of late payment of a debt”.

In summary, according to the report, the Speaker’s Ball “was an event organised privately by the main organiser and she was informed private donors funded it, with guests being Members of Parliament and persons from civil society. For the avoidance of any doubt, Madam Speaker categorically state (sic) that she did not enter into any contractual relationship in contemplation of the event and at no stage did she become liable for any expenses arising from the event.”

Fair enough. But Steenhuizen accused Mbete of contravening the Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Members’ Interests (clauses 4.1.3 and 4.1.5) which require Members of Parliament on all occasions to act in accordance with the public trust placed in them and maintain public confidence and trust in the integrity of Parliament.

The Speaker’s responded in strong words, all of which can be read in the Committee’s report which concluded “In light of the above and in accordance with clause10.4.1 of the Code, the Joint Committee is of the view that the complaint has no merit and as such the matter is considered finalised.”

Mr Steenhuizen, these were unnecessary allegations. After all, Speaker has demonstrated that she is quite capable of breaching public confidence and trust in the integrity of Parliament without having to leave the National Assembly.

Moira Levy

Last modified on Tuesday, 16 January 2018 18:40

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