Justice Minister Ronald Lamola has hit back at claims by the DA that he has refused to respond to parliamentary questions about ongoing criminal complaints and civil cases involving EFF MPs.
On Tuesday, DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone released a statement in which she suggested that Police Minister Bheki Cele and Lamola were protecting the EFF by ignoring her written questions submitted on 5 March 2021 requesting the names and details of the EFF parliamentarians.
Mazzone said government ministers were obliged to respond to her within 10 working days in line with parliamentary rules but had failed to do so.
Among the string of criminal complaints the DA has laid against the EFF and its leaders are allegations related to the looting of VBS Mutual Bank, incitement of public violence in the wake of unrest in Senekal, Free State in October 2020, and the EFF’s nationwide action to shut down Clicks stores in September 2020.
“We know there are civil and criminal charges that have been laid and we want these details made public. These are public representatives who have sworn an oath of office and therefore the public has every right to know what is going on with MPs, especially with regard to criminal and civil action being taken against them,” she told The Citizen.
Lamola’s spokesperson, Chrispin Phiri, said it was unfortunate that the minister’s responses had not been received by Mazzone due to administrative reasons.
“Having said that, the conjecture projected by the statement is regrettable. Minister Lamola takes his obligation to answer parliamentary questions seriously. Moreover, it must be noted that the same rules referred to, create a mechanism for the same question to be answered during an oral parliamentary session,” Phiri said.
Lamola’s proximity to the EFF
Mazzone also complained about a recent picture that surfaced on social media at the weekend of Lamola with EFF president Julius Malema and his second in command Floyd Shivambu at a social event.
She said it was concerning that Lamola, as the minister responsible for the administration of justice, was mingling with the EFF leaders while they had cases pending against them.
“That is not healthy in a democracy when you know very well there are members implicated in certain issues… that is not correct, that is not proper and we have a right as South Africans to be very concerned about this kind of behaviour,” Mazzone said.
Phiri said there was nothing wrong with the minister interacting with Malema and Shivambu, adding that the minister doesn’t get involved in investigations by law enforcement agencies.
“Minister Lamola interacts with people from all walks of life including members of the opposition who are not enemies. He does not need permission from Ms Mazzone to attend social gatherings,” he said.
“Furthermore it is disappointing that the chief whip of the official opposition of Republic of South Africa in Parliament insinuates that Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the minister personally investigate individuals. A distinction at all material times must be drawn between the administrative arm and investigative of state institutions.”
Meanwhile, Cele’s spokesperson, Lirandzu Themba, also denied Mazzone’s claims that the minister was failing to respond to questions.
She said the responses required from the minister were being prepared and an interim response would be sent to the DA.