State capture inquiry to subpoena Martins

Public Enterprises deputy minister Ben Martins.
Ben Martins Public Enterprises deputy minister Ben Martins.

Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises Ben Dikobe Martins is to be subpoenaed to appear before the parliamentary inquiry into state capture‚ MPs decided on Wednesday.

The unanimous decision by all political parties represented on the public enterprises committee - which is conducting the inquiry - followed receipt of a letter from Martins saying that it was not necessary for him to appear before the committee and that a written submission would suffice.

Martins has objected vociferously to the fact that he has so far not been given an opportunity to rebut the allegations made by suspended Eskom head of legal and compliance Suzanne Daniels that Martins was present at a meeting in July this year along with Ajay Gupta and Gupta associate Salim Essa.

Martins has insisted that he was at a funeral on that day and could not have been present at the said meeting in Johannesburg.

Chairperson of the inquiry Zukiswa Rantho insisted that Martins had been sent an invitation at the end of November to make an appearance before the committee on Tuesday. Even though there was a record that the e-mail was sent‚ Martins denied having received it before Monday.

In his letter to committee chairperson Lungi Mnganga-Gcabashe‚ Martins said he had not had an opportunity to seek legal advice and to go through the testimony of Daniels. He said he was sending a written submission to respond to the allegations and that this was sufficient.

"It cannot be assumed that a response can only be valid or legal if it is made in person … the written submission adequately addresses the issue I am required to attest to. As a result it is not necessary for me to appear before the committee‚" Martins wrote.

MPs were outraged by Martins's approach.

African National Congress MP Zukile Luyenge said Martins was undermining Parliament and should be subpoenaed. It was not adequate for Martins to say he did not need to come when he had cried foul about the committee's proceedings.

Democratic Alliance MP Natasha Mazzone agreed‚ saying that the time for niceties was over and that Martins had made an "unfortunate blunder" in going up against a constitutionally mandated committee.

African Christian Democratic Party MP Steve Swart said it was up to the committee to decide how Martins should account to the committee.

Inkatha Freedom Party MP Narend Singh said Martins "protesteth too much" and said he was disappointed by the deputy minister's response. He and Economic Freedom Party MP Marshall Dlamini strongly supported a subpoena being issued to Martins.