New speaker and DA at loggerheads over Nkandla

2014-06-07 10:20

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The new Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, has rejected a formal request by the Democratic Alliance to re-establish an ad hoc committee to look into President Jacob Zuma’s response to the Public Protector’s report on Nkandla.

Mbete responded this week by saying that she was not authorised to act on the request.

In a letter to DA MP James Selfe, she said that it was up to the “National Assembly of the fifth Parliament, and not the Speaker, to take any decision on how the matter should be dealt with”.

She said further that the report of the ad hoc committee had lapsed and the committee had “ceased to exist”.

Selfe had sent a letter of request to Mbete on the same day she was elected Speaker in May. He set a deadline of yesterday for her to “re-establish” the committee.

He argued that the ad hoc committee had been “unable to discharge its responsibilities prior to the dissolution of Parliament in May 2014”.

Mbete and Selfe have now locked horns on whether the National Assembly is currently in “adjournment” or not.

In terms of the rules, an ad hoc committee may only be established by resolution of the National Assembly. However, if Parliament is in “adjournment for a period of 14 or more days”, then the Speaker may act in consultation with senior party whips.

Responding yesterday, Selfe said he believed that the Speaker was authorised to act.

“I maintain that we were adjourned from 21 May, when the Chief Justice said that the meeting [of the National Assembly] was adjourned.”

He plans to write back to Mbete on Monday to reissue his request. “And if the Speaker doesn’t like the term re-establish, then I will ask her to establish an ad hoc committee,” he said.

In his response to the Public Protector’s findings, Zuma said he would await the outcome of a probe by the Special Investigating Unit.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had found Zuma and his family had benefited unduly from the R246 million upgrade to the president’s homestead in KwaZulu-Natal, which included a swimming pool, a cattle kraal and an amphitheatre. Among her recommendations was that he repay a portion of the money.

The security cluster ministers later announced they would seek a judicial review of the Public Protector’s report. They considered some of the findings to be “irrational, contradictory and ... informed by material errors of law”.

But last week new Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha told City Press he believed that Parliament was the appropriate forum for the matter to be handled in what was seen as change of position from seeking a court review of the findings.

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