Acrobatics and illusions: What happened in Parliament this week

2017-10-27 15:15
Bathabile Dlamini appears before Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts Picture: Gallo Images

Bathabile Dlamini appears before Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts Picture: Gallo Images

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Gigaba is just going to allocate money to the Guptas - EFF

2017-10-25 15:38

The EFF left the house before finance minister Malusi Gigaba could start his mini budget speech in Parliament on Wednesday, after holding up proceedings for about 15 minutes. WATCH

Cape Town – It was a busy week in Parliament, with swashbuckling Police Minister Fikile Mbalula presenting the crime statistics for 2016/17 and suave Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba delivering his first major speech in this capacity – the medium-term budget – in the National Assembly. Despite the hullaballoo created by these events, parliamentarians also found some time for acrobatics and illusions…

Public Protector Inquiry: A spectacular flip-flop

Few of the acrobatics seen in the Fifth Parliament will match the flip-flop by the ANC contingent in the Portfolio Committee on Justice this week.

The DA requested an inquiry into the fitness of Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane to hold the office of Public Protector in the wake of her controversial Bankkorp-report.

The committee met on October 10 the committee met to discuss whether the inquiry should be held.

"Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services today resolved to agree to a request to hold an inquiry into Public Protector Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office," read the statement from committee chairperson Mathole Motshekga.

On Wednesday the ANC majority in the committee disagreed with all the opposition MPs that they had agreed to hold an inquiry into Mkhwebane's conduct at the previous committee meeting.

"Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services today resolved that there is no basis to hold an inquiry into the fitness or otherwise of the Public Protector (PP) to hold office," read Motshekga's press release sent out on Wednesday.

"Committee Chairperson Dr Mathole Motshekga said that in a previous meeting the Committee had voted that it is the correct forum to deal with the referral from the Speaker of a request to institute removal proceedings against the Public Protector, in terms of Section 194 of the Constitution."

One might wonder what inspired the ANC MPs on the committee's acrobatics. It might have something to do with the angry statement that emanated from Luthuli House after the initial decision to institute the inquiry. 

Sassa: A ministerial disappearing act

Like no chain, box or underwater tank could hold Houdini back in the day, no committee room can hold our very own Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini. 

On Tuesday evening her department and the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) had to explain their progress in resolving the crisis at Sassa to a joint meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) and the Portfolio Committee on Social Development. 

This after the Portfolio Committee on Social Development mooted summonsing Dlamini and her department after they gave the committee, as well as Scopa the cold shoulder a week before.

Yet, on Tuesday Dlamini was up to her old tricks and was nowhere to be found in the committee room.

She sent a letter to the chairpersons, Rose Capa and Themba Godi, to excuse herself, saying she was attending a week-long "Active Agent" seminar in KwaZulu-Natal.

MPs were less than impressed by this illusion. 

IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe asked why Dlamini could not prioritise just one day because they had agreed on the date beforehand.

DA MP Lindy Wilson said Dlamini is "a disgrace" for not availing herself for 17 million South Africans.

ANC MP Nthabiseng Khunou called Dlamini "out of order". 

At least Dlamini can be heartened that it wasn't a case of out of sight, out of mind.

Parliamentary oversight: An even bigger disappearing act

What is more impressive than one minister disappearing? All but one minister disappearing.

That is, if you're not an opposition MP like DA chief whip John Steenhuisen, whose ire was ignited on Thursday afternoon as Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies was the only member of the Cabinet present in the National Assembly for member statements. 

Member statements is a process in Parliament where MPs read out statements about matters of concern during a sitting, with the ministers responsible then having an opportunity to respond. It is a way to keep the executive accountable.

Ministers' absence for this is a longstanding bugbear of Steenhuisen's, and on Thursday afternoon he raised it again, but there wasn't much house chairperson Grace Boroto could do to prevent the Cabinet's (bar Davies) disappearing act. 

Read more on:    parliament  |  anc  |  cabinet  |  ministers

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