A disturbing tendency

2008-03-01 00:00

With the Inkatha Freedom Party having walked out of the session and the Democratic Alliance voting against the measure, the African National Congress has used its majority in the provincial Parliament to dismiss the African Christian Democratic Party’s Jo-Ann Downs from chairing the legislature’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa). There are several very disturbing aspects of this matter.

Firstly, the reason given for her dismissal by ANC chief whip Cyril Xaba, that she had leaked information to the media, is hardly convincing. If credible allegations of misconduct against Downs had been made, then Parliament surely has procedures for dealing with them. The accusations would have to be made publicly, witnesses called to substantiate them, Downs should have been given the opportunity to respond and defend herself, and a verdict would have been reached. Only if she had been found guilty through these proper processes should she then be removed from her position. The fact that none of this has been done and that the ANC chose instead to push a hurried decision through on a party political vote, suggests that the ruling party actually has no legitimate case to make against her, and simply wants to be rid of her incisive criticism.

Here is the second cause for serious concern. Constant critical appraisal of the actions of the government is the primary function of Scopa and the role of the chairperson is to ensure that the committee performs its duty of protecting the public’s interests without fear or favour. In short, Scopa’s job is to hold the executive to account. The idea that the executive and ruling party can, without following due process, arbitrarily dismiss Scopa’s chairperson contradicts the whole notion of democratic accountability.

This decision suggests that there are powerful forces within the ANC that have either a very limited understanding of democratic principles or an arrogant disregard of them. With Downs now mounting a legal challenge to her dismissal, revelations are coming into the public domain of aggressive conduct by the executive that point very strongly to the latter.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.