Is Baleka Mbete the right person to lead SA in Parliament?

2014-09-15 06:45

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Of course she's the right person, writes ANC parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo. No way, says DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane.

Mmusi Maimane

Many people would like to blame the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) for the August 21 chaos in Parliament when President Jacob Zuma was supposed to respond to questions from members.

But this was only a result of the refusal by the Speaker, Baleka Mbete, to discharge her constitutionally mandated duties as the chief presiding officer of Parliament.

Mbete’s responsibilities are to ensure decorum in the House, to act in an impartial manner and ensure that members hold the executive, including the president, accountable for their work or the lack thereof.

When the president gave unsatisfactory answers to the questions, Mbete should have asserted her authority and pushed for him to adequately answer the questions in detail.

From where I was sitting, Mbete was acting in the interests of the ANC – where she serves as chairperson – and President Zuma, and not in the interests of the country and Parliament.

If she continues in such fashion, Parliament will be an expensive institution unable to fully do its job. If Parliament cannot do its job, the executive will have carte blanche to play judge and jury, resulting in increased levels of corruption, and we could see another Nkandla project.

Due to her failure to perform her duties, an unexpected and worrying move happened where armed police, dressed in riot gear, descended on the parliamentary precinct, leading to restrictions of the area?–?a de facto lockdown.

Riot police are usually called in when there is violence and anarchy during protests, not when answers are demanded of the president in Parliament.

It is clear the ANC, with the help of the Speaker, will, while desecrating public institutions, protect a president who has many questions to answer. The DA will lead the charge for Parliament to execute its duties, and uphold the Constitution and maintain democracy.

If Mbete isn’t prepared to forgo political allegiance for the sake of a functioning Parliament, the DA and other opposition parties are of the view that she is no longer fit to serve as Speaker.

Parliament should be a proud institution, which compatriots look to and say: “I know my country is in good hands.” Parliament and its leadership should be champions of justice, the Constitution and all that is right.

Maimane is leader of the official DA opposition in Parliament

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya/City Press

Moloto Mothapo

DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane’s patent lack of strategic leadership and political naivety has seen him and his party becoming an unwitting tool in the narrow political battle of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) that he does not understand.

Far from being a legitimate motion grounded on substantive evidence or motivation, the motion to have National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete removed from her position is in fact part of the EFF’s desperate attempt to quash the misconduct charges its MPs are facing after they disrupted a sitting of Parliament last month.

In reality, this is what the motion is about. It’s a typical EFF stunt from which the DA and Maimane, who is increasingly mimicking Julius Malema’s every antic, would not benefit politically.

The allegations motivating the motion are ridiculous at best and pathetic at worst.

In all established democracies in the world, a parliamentary Speaker is democratically elected from among serving MPs in the House. Although it would be inevitable that such a Speaker would be an MP of a certain political party, there is no space for political bias because the Speaker’s primary role is to enforce the existing rules of the House.

The DA argued that the Speaker must resign from the party after being elected to ensure neutrality. Shouldn’t the DA then lead by example and remove its speakers in the Western Cape legislature and the Cape Town city council?

The rules governing the election of the Speaker are provided for in the Constitution, so shouldn’t these parties be calling for a constitutional amendment rather than waging a personal attack? This would be interesting given that the DA, for instance, has often accused the ANC of wanting to change the Constitution.

The Speaker is accused of bias because she allegedly made partisan statements before she could be a Speaker. It doesn’t get more puerile than this.

The ANC has tabled a motion of its own urging the House to reaffirm its confidence in Baleka Mbete. She is the most experienced and longest-serving presiding officer – having served as deputy speaker and now serving her second term as Speaker.

The DA’s surrendering of the official opposition’s responsibilities to the roguish EFF places on our shoulders the sole responsibility to guard against anarchy in Parliament.

Mothapo is ANC parliamentary spokesperson

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