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Mystery of 'missing' copies of constitution plays out again in parliament

Parliamentary staff found a box with 105 copies of the constitution.
Parliamentary staff found a box with 105 copies of the constitution.
Image: GCIS

The mystery over missing leather-bound copies of the constitution that were meant for MPs may have been resolved ... or not.

Parliament announced on Thursday that it had found no evidence that the copies were stolen, a finding MPs want the public to be told about.

Parliamentary staff also found a box with 105 copies of the constitution, which will be made available to MPs. But it is not clear whether the documents in the box are the same as those reported "stolen" two weeks ago.

Secretary to the National Assembly Masibulele Xaso told the assembly's programming committee that security personnel had scrutinised security videos and indicated that "they cannot find evidence that any member or person stole any copy of the constitution on that day".

DA MP Natasha Mazzone raised the matter in the same committee two weeks ago. She revealed at the time that she, along with other MPs, could not get copies of the leather-bound document as they were told that "all the constitutions had been stolen".

Speaker Thandi Modise vowed that parliament would get to the bottom of the matter and warned those who might have stolen the copies "to return them before parliament went after them".

On Thursday, Mazzone, who is yet to receive a copy of the document, requested an update on the investigation, and Xaso gave his explanation.

"That begs the question: where are they?" asked DA chief whip John Steenhuisen.

Xaso then revealed the existence of the 105 copies.

"There was just a misunderstanding in terms of where some of those were allocated at the time. There was a boxful that was not made available. I am advised those are available and we will distribute them to members who haven't received copies," he said.

ANC MP Clarah Dikgale was more concerned that the minutes of the last meeting stated "members stole the constitution".

"Can it then be put on record that our members are not thieves?" she proposed.

Modise defended the minutes of last week's meeting, saying they had to reflect the report that "some members took the constitution and we had very strong words for that".

Another ANC MP, Richard Dyantyi, added that since the matter had ended up in the media "that perception must be corrected that there is no evidence of any constitution stolen by anybody and there is work in progress to get to a particular conclusion".

Modise instructed parliament's communications team to issue a statement in this regard.

The FF Plus's Corne Mulder saw a bright side to the saga, joking that it was positive the constitution was in such huge demand that parliament was spending so much time trying to get to the bottom of the mystery of the missing copies.

Speaking to our sister publication TimesLIVE after the meeting, Xaso said emphatically: "There was no theft."

"We found a box with 105 copies in a store room. What happened was that when officials who worked an earlier shift left the table, they must have put the box in that room. And then the people who worked a late shift were not aware and thought the copies had been stolen," he said.

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