Me­dia wrong to say min­is­ter ‘dodged’ ques­tions on Grace Mu­gabe

The Mercury - - OPINION -

LAST week, sev­eral me­dia out­lets ran sto­ries to the ef­fect that Min­is­ter of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co-op­er­a­tion Maite Nkoana-Masha­bane was “dodg­ing” re­spond­ing to ques­tions on the in­ci­dent con­cern­ing Grace Mu­gabe, and Gabriella En­gels.

In the re­port­ing, how­ever, a num­ber of sig­nif­i­cant fac­tors were ig­nored.

The meet­ings at­tended by the min­is­ter were ar­ranged well be­fore the re­quest for her to at­tend the par­lia­men­tary ses­sions was made.

Given the min­is­ter’s man­date, it is not pos­si­ble to sim­ply can­cel pre­ar­ranged bi­lat­eral meet­ings with for­eign af­fairs coun­ter­parts, es­pe­cially in view of the fact that these are part of the de­liv­er­ables in Dirco’s An­nual Per­for­mance Plan.

On Septem­ber 7, for ex­am­ple, Nkoana-Masha­bane, in ad­di­tion to the meet­ing with her Viet­namese coun­ter­part on the back end of the Brics (Brazil, Rus­sia, In­dia, China and South Africa busi­ness com­mu­ni­ties) Sum­mit, she was also at­tend­ing the Asia Re­gional Heads of Mis­sion Con­fer­ence.

The min­is­ter had been more than will­ing to par­tic­i­pate in par­lia­men­tary pro­cesses re­lat­ing to the Grace Mu­gabe is­sue.

Prior to re­ceiv­ing any re­quest for the min­is­ter to brief Par­lia­ment or re­spond to Par­lia­ment, she her­self wrote to both the Speaker of Par­lia­ment and the chair­per­son of the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee, ex­press­ing her will­ing­ness to brief them on the is­sue.

Both the let­ters from the min­is­ter and com­mu­ni­ca­tion con­firm­ing their re­ceipt by the re­spec­tive par­lia­men­tary of­fices are avail­able.

It can­not be true that the min­is­ter was “dodg­ing” ques­tions, since she was the one who had vol­un­tar­ily availed her­self to re­spond to ques­tions on the mat­ter.

Although there has been crit­i­cism of the min­is­ter’s re­liance on the sub ju­dice rule, it should be noted that the min­is­ter did take se­ri­ous ac­count of the fact that the mat­ter was sub ju­dice (lit­er­ally un­der ju­di­cial con­sid­er­a­tion).

It is true, as some have noted, that the scope of the rule has been sig­nif­i­cantly di­min­ished un­der the cur­rent con­sti­tu­tional dis­pen­sa­tion of de­lib­er­a­tion and jus­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Even so, where any process is likely to prej­u­dice ju­di­cial pro­ceed­ings, such a process would fall foul of the sub ju­dice process.

Par­lia­ment’s role is to hold the ex­ec­u­tive ac­count­able.

Any process within Par­lia­ment is, there­fore, in­tended to de­ter­mine whether Nkoana-Masha­bane ap­pro­pri­ately ex­er­cised her dis­cre­tion un­der sec­tion 7(2) of the Diplo­matic Im­mu­ni­ties and Priv­i­leges Act.

But that is pre­cisely the ques­tion be­fore the court.

It does not come much closer to prej­u­dic­ing the ju­di­cial process than that.

The DA wants to have its cake and eat it too – to have both a ju­di­cial process and a par­lia­men­tary process at the same time.

It would be more ap­pro­pri­ate to ei­ther:

1. Fol­low the par­lia­men­tary route first, then if dis­sat­is­fied with the min­is­ter’s ex­pla­na­tion, ap­proach the court.

2, Fol­low the ju­di­cial route first and if suc­cess­ful, seek par­lia­men­tary cen­sure.

A re­lated mat­ter con­cerns the avail­abil­ity of the min­is­ter to re­spond to par­lia­men­tary ques­tions on Septem­ber 7.

The min­is­ter had al­ready in­formed the leader of gov­ern­ment busi­ness that she would be away on of­fi­cial duty and that she would be un­avail­able to per­son­ally re­spond to ques­tions.

How­ever, the rules do per­mit the min­is­ter to be rep­re­sented ei­ther by one of her deputies or an­other cab­i­net min­is­ter.

The min­is­ter will be in North Amer­ica un­til Septem­ber 22 as she is at­tend­ing a UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly high-level ses­sion in New York and the North Amer­ica Heads of Mis­sion Con­fer­ence in Ot­tawa.

It is ob­served that the full port­fo­lio com­mit­tee of Par­lia­ment are cur­rently in Ot­tawa on a study tour which ends on Sun­day.

The min­is­ter has ex­pressed her will­ing­ness to meet the mem­bers of the com­mit­tee to dis­cuss these and other is­sues.

What is im­por­tant to note, how­ever, is that the min­is­ter is not at all afraid to an­swer ques­tions con­cern­ing the grant­ing of diplo­matic im­mu­nity to Mrs Mu­gabe.

As she has ex­pressed be­fore, the de­ci­sion was not an easy one to make but one that, in her dis­cre­tion, was jus­ti­fied.

DIRE TLADI Spe­cial ad­viser to Min­is­ter Maite Nkoana-Masha­bane

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.