Sort out Nkandla and save Parliament

2014-11-19 15:00

Think about it. The only sticking issue in this fifth Parliament is Nkandla, now a word that symbolises corruption. The opposition parties want to get President Jacob Zuma to acknowledge wrongdoing over the public money spent on his residence in KwaZulu-Natal and to act accordingly by paying back the money.

Besides that, work continues. Parliament is not dysfunctional.

In fact, after all the drama on Thursday night, including the forceful removal of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP Reneilwe Mashabela, the National Assembly was still able to meet before midnight and approve the treaty on the Grand Inga hydroelectric project.

The chaos that we witness each time there is a House meeting about any of the Nkandla-related matters masks the fact that portfolio committees continue to process bills and hold government departments to account.

The portfolio committees are made up of the different parties who, away from all the cameras, get down to work.

The ad hoc committee set up to look at three reports arising from investigations into Nkandla was unsurprisingly dominated by ANC MPs and it was evident from the beginning that they were intent on exonerating the president.

In the past, chances are that the committee would have done its work uninterrupted and the ANC would have achieved whatever outcome it wanted, using its majority.

But now the EFF, joined by most of the opposition parties, are hellbent on getting a pound of Zuma’s flesh, even if they do not have the numbers.

This is what lies at the heart of the impasse in Parliament now. But what has also complicated matters is the partiality of Speaker Baleka Mbete, who opposition parties feel treats them with contempt.

Much as the opposition parties have no right to prescribe to the ANC who it nominates as Speaker, the incumbent has to try to perform better than telling the opposition, “I will not recognise any of [you]”, as she did this week.

So the ANC has to make more of an effort to find a solution to the Nkandla matter without worrying about losing face.

As for Mbete, words fail me.

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