'Brown might have escaped for now but she will be caught soon'
Lynne Brown quits as MP but she still might answer for her role in State Capture
Disgraced former Public Enterprises minister Lynne Brown could still find herself facing censure related to misleading parliament, despite her sudden resignation on Thursday as a member of parliament.
Brown, a longserving leader of the ANC, has been exposed as a key roleplayer in the dodgy business dealings of the controversial Gupta family and their associates.
She was one of 10 ANC cabinet ministers axed by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday.
Under her watch, enterprises such as Eskom, Denel and regional airline South African Express were taken to the brink of collapse.
Eskom paid out more than R1.5-billion to Gupta-owned and related companies, while a further R5.5-billion was siphoned from Transnet.Last week, public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found Brown guilty of misleading parliament when she claimed in December 2016 there had been no engagement between Eskom and Gupta-linked Trillian. At the time the company had in fact been paid R200-million of a total R600-million by Eskom.
In her findings, Mkhwebane said Brown had violated the executive ethics code of the Constitution. Her actions also mean she contravened the the Power, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act.
Brown responded by claiming she was not responsible for misleading parliament, as she had been misled by former Eskom chief executive officer Anoj Singh.
Times Select has found at least two other instances where Brown misled parliament about state-owned companies' dealings with Trillian, which is owned by Gupta associate Salim Essa.
When Freedom Front MP Corne Mulder asked Brown in November 2016 whether Transnet board acquisition and disposals chair Stanley Shane had any links to Trillian, she answered that she was in possession of declarations and there was no conflict of interest. This is despite Shane helping set up Trillian, having Transnet proposals sent to him and, according to Trillian whistleblower Mosilo Mothepu, being on Trillian’s payroll.
Responding to another question by DA MP Natasha Mazzone in September last year, Brown neglected to inform parliament that a R5.7-million payment by South African Express to Trillian was without a valid contract.
Political analyst Warren Freedman, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said parliament could still charge Brown with contempt, even if she is not a member.
“Apart from the fact that she was a member at the time, I have based my conclusion on the grounds that no one is allowed to mislead parliament (including members of the public who are called as witnesses). Parliament could still apply penalties against her, for example ordering her to apologise or imposing a fine,” he said.
However Freedman said contempt of parliament was not the same as contempt of court and could not result in a criminal charge.Mulder said on Thursday Brown might have escaped temporarily but would be caught soon.
“At least she has been fired and is no longer an MP, but that is not the end of it. There is still the commission of inquiry coming and we expect that these things will be brought back there and she will be held to account,” he said.
Contacted for comment on Thursday, Brown reiterated that as minister she relied on responses she got to questions her department passed on to the state-owned enterprises.
“The unit in the department responsible will check the information that gets to me and, because there had been no instance of being misled, I had no reason to doubt their responses.
“I think going forward I’m sure the new minister will take all of this into cognisance ...
“In hindsight – (though) I still feel 98% of all questions were answered correctly – I imagine what I would have done had I gone forward on this is to take more care on the questions, especially the stuff that's in the public space. And get the communications department to lift out the stuff that is in the public space that was talking to those issues.
“I’m sure that the new minister will take a lot more care on how he deals with this going forward. It is something to consider.”
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu, in announcing the resignation, said the ANC caucus in parliament wished Brown well.
“She has expressed her gratitude in having served the people of South Africa and thanked the ANC for having given her the opportunity to do so.
“We are confident that she will continue serving the country and our movement in other capacities in future,” he said in a statement.
Brown joined the National Assembly in 2014 and is a former premier of the Western Cape, whose legislature she joined in 1994.