Who's accountable to whom? Opposition asks ANC MPs

2016-11-15 22:29
John Steenhuisen (Netwerk24)

John Steenhuisen (Netwerk24)

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Cape Town - Opposition MPs asked tough questions of the ANC in Parliament on Tuesday, saying the House had lost its mandated ability to hold the executive to account.

MPs debated their performance in holding the president and his executive to account in recent years. DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen led the debate.

Steenhuisen said Parliament once represented a place where "good triumphed over evil" after the dismantling of apartheid. He lamented the role it was playing two decades later.

"Parliament has to be more than just bricks and mortar," he told the House.

"It's right to reflect on 20 years of the passing of our Constitution, to reflect on whether this House is living up to its mandate from those who framed it."

Too much power had been allowed to slip away from the House and towards the executive.

"On some days it's actually difficult to determine who's accountable to whom.”

"It's why Minister Mahlobo felt nothing when his agency employed a signal jammer in this House in some bizarre Orwellian attempt to control the flow of thoughts, views and opinions.”

He was referring to the state security minister’s role in jamming cellphone signals during President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address last year.

"It's why Minister Nhleko felt no shame whatsoever when he tried to hoodwink this House that a swimming pool was some elaborate firefighting mechanism," he said, referring to the Nkandla saga.

'It's all about stealing, it's all about lying'

EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the ANC had lost its mandate to deliver the "African revolution".

"You can't blame the opposition, you can't blame us, because you are the one with the majority, and you are the ones our people have elected to come and change their lives.

"Men and women of the ANC respond more to their bellies than the demands of their consciences."

He said the solution was to move beyond the "dead" ANC, which stood for "African National Criminals".

"Parliament is where you come to tell lies because it's all about your bellies. You support each other on the basis of stealing. You vote each other on the basis of stealing. You celebrate each other on the basis of stealing.

"It's all about stealing. It's all about lying.

"Even Jackson Mthembu the honourable; he is being faithful today because he wants the opportunity to steal tomorrow as well."

The ANC’s chief whip shook his head and smiled as Ndlozi spoke.

IFP Chief Whip Narend Singh said Parliament should resign itself to the fact it was not a democracy, but rather a “thinly-veiled totalitarian regime".

"When last have we seen constructive dialogue, a reciprocity and exchange of views between MPs and the executive?

"When last have we seen a full bench of the executive present in this House, in order to reply to member’s statements?"

Admitted mistakes

ANC deputy Chief Whip Doris Dlakude defended the ANC's oversight of the executive.

"This Parliament has only on a single occasion been found to have erred in how it handled the Public Protector's report on the security upgrades at Nkandla," she said.

"It has since put in remedies to that end in line with the Constitutional Court judgment, and is making the necessary amendments to the legislation."

She said some wanted to wallow in their missteps, and others wanted to dig in their heels in their denialism.

"Such a situation creates an intractable environment for the legislature to chart a new chapter when it admitted it could have done better."

She cited Parliament's inquiry into the SABC, the appointment of a new public protector, and interview processes for a new inspector-general of intelligence as evidence of improvement.

ANC MP Richard Mdakane said there were always members of the executive in the House to answer their questions. The problem was that, when they made themselves available to the opposition, they got insulted.

Opposition MPs could be heard giving a collective "aww" in sarcastic sympathy.

Steenhuisen concluded the debate by saying that ANC MP’s speeches on Tuesday were much of the same, and represented what was wrong in the House.

"Even after their Cabinet lekgotla [in October], where they admitted what they had done with Nkandla was wrong, yet here today they continue to defend it."

One of the biggest acts of cowardice was for certain ANC MPs to express their disdain of the status quo elsewhere, but not in the House, he said to applause from the opposition.

He called on MPs to reassert their roles as "watchdogs, not lapdogs".

Read more on:    parliament  |  da  |  anc  |  eff  |  politics

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