Turok gets guards after 'assassination' threat uncovered

Emsie Ferreira

SENIOR ANC MP Ben Turok said yesterday he had been assigned bodyguards after a man claimed he was asked to kill parliamentarians probing misconduct allegations against fired communications minister Dina Pule.

"The head of parliament's security came to see me and told me about the threats ... we were in the middle of the hearings," said Turok, who co-chairs the legislature's ethics committee.

Turok said he only became aware of the full extent of the threats when the Sunday Times contacted him for comment.

The newspaper asked him about claims made by a man that Pule's companion, Phosane Mngqibisa, had asked him to assassinate Turok and parliament's registrar of members' interests, Fazela Mohamed.

He said further claims of intimidation had emerged since a nine-member panel, headed by himself, found Pule guilty of misconduct.

It announced on Wednesday last week that Pule "wilfully misled" the ethics committee by denying her romantic involvement with Mngqibisa.

It found she had failed to declare that Mngqibisa benefited materially from the sponsorship of last year's information and communications technology event, the ICT Indaba, which her department hosted in Cape Town.

The ethics panel recommended that police and prosecuting authorities should further investigate Pule's breach of parliament's rules.

"Three witnesses have been intimidated. I know one is a senior official in the department who says that she has been harassed," Turok said.

Police spokesman Solomon Makgale said police had launched an investigation into the claims immediately after they were informed of these by parliament's head of security, Zelda Holtzman.

He said, so far, the ongoing probe had not uncovered evidence of a plot to harm the ethics panel members.

Makgale confirmed that the police had interviewed the man who told the Sunday Times he had been asked, but refused, to carry out a hit on Turok to prevent him attending the panel's final sitting.

"So far, this person has proven to be very uncooperative and not credible. He makes allegations which he cannot corroborate. Notwithstanding, we conducted our own independent investigation regarding the threats."

Turok said he remained under the protection of bodyguards, and it was up to the police to decide for how long this was necessary.

Makgale said Turok had written to national police commissioner Riah Phiyega to ask for her help.

Turok said that during the ethics panel's investigation members became uncomfortable when Mngqibisa arrived at parliament with private security, which the legislature did not allow.

The probe dealt with claims that Mngqibisa's company received millions in management fees related to the ICT Indaba, and that Pule flew him around the world at taxpayers' expense.

Turok reiterated that he found Pule's attitude towards the panel regrettable.

"If Pule had been honest, if she had done what Vavi did, and said 'I'm only human', things could have been different," he said.

He was referring to Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi admitting recently that he had sex with a junior colleague at the trade union federation's head office.

Turok said Pule did not contest the evidence against her but sought instead to question the witnesses' integrity.

This convinced him that the matter should be handed to the police for investigation. – Sapa