Speaker Mbete rejects DA’s call to re-establish Nkandla committee

2014-06-07 00:00

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.

Kicking into touch, 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 the same day that she was elected Speaker on May 21. 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 on May 6, 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 days or more”, 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 May 21, when the Chief Justice said that the meeting [of the National Assembly] was adjourned.” He plans to write back to Mbete on Monday to re-issue his request. “And if the Speaker doesn’t like the term re-establish, then I will ask her to establish an ad hoc committee.”

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 found Zuma and his family had benefited unduly from the R246 million homestead upgrade 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.

Meanwhile, the security cluster ministers 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”.

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