Minerals committee still in the dark over funds for capture inquiry

Parliament’s portfolio committee on mineral resources is still in the dark on whether they will be afforded the resources and budget needed to proceed with an inquiry into allegations of state capture affecting the Department of Mineral Resources.

Parliament legal services member Fatima Ebrahim told the portfolio committee on Wednesday that she had not received any feedback from the Office of the National Assembly House Chair Cedric Frolick regarding the committee’s request for resources and funds to start a state capture inquiry of its own.

While Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s inquiry into state capture has already begun, the portfolio committee has long expressed a desire to conduct its own probe into the Department of Mineral Resources.

Matters of interest to the committee include transactions between Glencore and the Gupta-owned Tegeta, a reported trip to Dubai by former minister of mineral resources Mosebenzi Zwane, allegations of abuse in the department's licensing divisions and mining operation rehabilitation funds which changed hands between institutions, including the Bank of Baroda.

Ebrahim told the committee that she requested funding to allow the committee to travel and interview witnesses but had not yet received a response. However, she said the committee could use the time to further refine its terms of reference for its inquiry and outline a budget.

She said nothing was stopping the committee, legally speaking, from continuing with oversight and calling Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe on allegations against Zwane.

“The minister has told the committee that Department of Mineral Resources has taken steps to address corruption, including shutting down two regional offices, and appointing investigators to look at licensing processes. The committee can still ask for an update on these,” Ebrahim said.

Democratic Alliance MP Hendrik Schmidt said it would be senseless to go into a parliamentary inquiry with the committee’s current and limited scope, witnesses and resources. He also questioned the sense in quizzing Mantashe about events at the department before his arrival there.

Economic Freedom Fighters MP Thembinkosi Rawula urged the committee to have a clear idea of what it sought to achieve from its inquiry that the state capture commission of inquiry would not be focusing on.