Guest Column

Parliament spring comes early, again

2017-05-28 05:58
Andisiwe Makinana

Andisiwe Makinana

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Andisiwe Mankinana

The Parliament spring of 2008, which bloomed following the changing faces in the ANC powerhouse after the watershed Polokwane conference, has arrived before the national conference this time around.

For the eight months between Thabo Mbeki’s fall in Polokwane and his removal as the president of the republic, Parliament saw the most robust engagements between ANC legislators and the executive.

Sweetheart questions became a thing of the past and the kid gloves for Mbeki’s Cabinet ministers were out of the window. Parliament appears to be back in this space, as evidenced by Tuesday’s robust meeting of the public enterprises portfolio committee with Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown and the Eskom board over Brian Molefe’s controversial return to the power utility as chief executive officer.

Media headlines went gaga over the public return of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his cutting comments about actions of the executive he was part of until two months ago.

Gordhan, who says he is a committed ANC member, walked the talk during his appearance at the committee. He did say: “If you want to connect the dots, connect all the dots and ask ourselves who did what where, in service of what cause, at the end of the day.”

Connecting the dots was his motto when he addressed the Ahmed Kathrada memorials in April. But the challenge for Gordhan is balancing what he knows as a former minister and finding his feet as a backbencher.

His comments this week are not stand-alone statements by an ANC MP, but reflect a growing unease within the ANC caucus, where governing party factional politics are playing themselves out. As the SABC parliamentary inquiry was a win for the grouping long dissatisfied over the shenanigans at the public broadcaster, a parliamentary inquiry into Eskom and Molefe would be a similar victory.


The trigger on the SABC inquiry was the ban of footage showing violent protests ahead of last year’s local government elections, which embarrassed some in the ANC, and the snubbing of the Independent Communications Authority of SA when it instructed the SABC to withdraw the decision not to air footage of violent protests. At Eskom, it is the weirdness of the entire Molefe return to the hot seat.

ANC members are personally confronted with the public outrage over a series of scandals. Acting chairperson of the public enterprises committee Zukiswa Rantho on Tuesday recounted a personal phone call with a former police member who questioned her about Molefe’s R30m payout, saying the man told her that, after 48 years of service in the police, he left with less than R2m.

Outspoken ANC MP Makhosi Khoza, who openly speaks of injudicious ANC leadership, does not hold back in the committee she chairs either. Ask Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe – he complained to the party’s agony aunt Gwede Mantashe asking for intervention. After berating Radebe’s planning, monitoring and evaluation department for poor performance earlier this month, Khoza, for the record, stated: “The committee will praise people when they are doing good work, but when we exercise oversight, we make people shiver.”

Shiver they do when they encounter Nyami Booi in the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) or Mondli Gungubele, the former mayor of Ekurhuleni who oversees the communications portfolio and public enterprises, or environmental affairs chair Phil Mapulane, whose committee wants members of the board of the SA Weather Service board to pay from their own pockets for wasteful spending incurred as a result of their ill-advised decision. This is unheard of in the public service.

In this Parliament spring, ANC MPs are finding their voices as they question Cabinet ministers, party deployees to departments and others, but much of it appears to be informed by ANC factions.

The Parliament rehabilitation began with the SABC inquiry, which ultimately found former minister of communications Faith Muthambi incompetent. The powerful president of the ANC Women’s League, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini – a staunch ally of the president – has also been kept on a tight leash by Scopa after years of being coddled by the social development committee.

The fresh breeze blows through the same Parliament that absolved President Jacob Zuma of any wrongdoing over the Nkandla debacle, dragged its feet in dealing with the many crises at the SABC, and aided and abetted Dlamini and others in evading accountability over controversial subjects.

It is a pity, however, that the majority party in Parliament gets serious about the institution’s oversight role when it is a policy and elective conference year.

Follow me on Twitter @AndiMakinana

Read more on:    anc  |  parliament


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