EDITORIAL | DA’s shoulder shrug over errant MP is a bit rich
The saga of Tsepo Mhlongo and the DA’s reaction is a lesson in how to take a bite of humble pie and miss
Tsepo Mhlongo, the Democratic Alliance member of parliament who nonchalantly went on a shopping spree during a Zoom meeting last week, defended himself in a brief statement over the weekend. But he only ate his humble pie halfway when he threw in this line: “It’s not like I’ve been caught stealing public money in a PPE scandal.”
He apologises three times in a statement sent to a Sunday Times political reporter before shooting himself in the foot. He diminishes his triple apology in the last paragraph: “I would like to clarify the unfortunate incident of my video turning on by mistake ... during a parliamentary seating, for which I unreservedly apologise as it was not intended. I want to put it on record that I was not at Tops as alleged. My whereabouts can easily be proven through the GPS history of my phone. I was however in Pick n Pay, shopping. Again, I would like to apologise for the unintended video activation, it was not intended. Ngiyaxolisa [I’m sorry]. I will not let this drag me down or obsess about it, it’s not like I’ve been caught stealing public money in a PPE scandal.”
Let’s unpack that last sentence. Times Select last week reported that the Special Investigating Unit was probing 658 cases of possible corruption related to the government procurement of Covid-19 personal protective equipment worth more than R5bn. That is indeed small change compared with what Mhlongo earns. The lowest salary for an MP in the National Assembly is just more than R1.1m per year. For that, his job is to represent the interests of the people who voted for him in the National Assembly or the National Council of Provinces. This is where laws are made and the work of the executive is overseen. Pretty important work, by most standards. Paid for courtesy of the taxpayer...