The Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein has queried whether or not questions posed to former Finance Minister Des van Rooyen in Parliament were ambiguous.
Democratic Alliance (DA) leader, John Steenhuisen argued that van Rooyen deliberately misled parliament when he said that he did not meet the Guptas.
Steenhuisen and DA Member of Parliament, Kevin Mileham, are appealing the High Court judgment which set aside one of Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s reports in 2018.
Van Rooyen successfully challenged Mkhwebane’s report which found that he lied to Parliament about meeting the Gupta family.
The DA has argued that Van Rooyen avoided revealing that he met the Guptas by deliberately misinterpreting the question. It contends that Van Rooyen chose to respond to the question based only on his official capacity, whereas the question wasn’t specific.
The former minister had argued that he never disputed that he met the Gupta family outside his capacity as a minister. But his response to the public protector’s investigation was that he met the Guptas in his capacity as Treasurer General of the MKMVA.
Legal representative for the DA, Advocate Michael Bishop says, “It’s his claim that he thought it was only about his official capacity. How does it fit with all the other facts that we know about the question? … It’s a case where he knew that he met with them when he answered this question. And so knowing why the question was asked the context in which it was asked, and of its purpose in which it was asked and the way it was framed. The fact that it never says official capacity that he is trying to take since taking office to use that to mean official capacity.”
Van Rooyen has argued that there is no evidence that he misled parliament. And that the Public Protector never provided reasons for how she reached that conclusion.
He contends that if the answer was not satisfactory, Steenhuisen should have made follow-up questions.
Des van Rooyen’s Senior Counsel, Thabani Masuku says, “When a minister is being asked a question the first assumption that he must make is that I’ve been asked this question as the member of the executive. That is the first starting point. I’m not being asked this question because I’m not saying that he can’t answer questions relating to prior to being a member of the executive. But the question must clearly reflect the law on which his accountability and the subsequent mechanism is invoked in order to promote that accountability. Which is the complaint system to the public protector which is directed to archiving.”
Judgment has been reserved.