Paul Herman

5 things you forgot happened in Parliament in 2017

2017-12-27 08:00
President Jacob Zuma (AFP)

President Jacob Zuma (AFP)

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Another year has come and gone, and with 2017 proving to be the year of South Africa's most infamous newsmakers, you'd be forgiven for having missed some other notable stories.

Here are a few things that happened in Parliament this year that you may have already forgotten about.

'F*&k you, honourable member' 

The opening of Parliament has become progressively more hostile towards President Jacob Zuma as the years have gone by, and 2017 was one for the books.

Zuma's State of the Nation Address started with the Economic Freedom Fighters caucus greeting citizen number one with chants of "Tsotsi!" as he strolled through the National Assembly chamber.

The night reached its peak (or is it a new low?) when North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo objected to a point of privilege by DA chief whip John Steenhuisen, shouting "fuck you!" into his mic for the whole nation to hear, before accusing Steenhuisen of racism.

Brian Molefe blitz

His name will now forever be associated with state-owned enterprises and the infamous Guptas, but many may have forgotten that Brian Molefe was sworn in as a Member of Parliament in late February.

His tenure was shorter than the period between President Zuma's two Cabinet reshuffles this year. Former Eskom CEO Molefe lasted only three months as a lawmaker, following weeks of talk that he was being primed to become a Cabinet minister.

But come Zuma's ruthless midnight reshuffle in March, Molefe's name was nowhere to be seen, and a month later, he was gone.

Anti-Zuma march

Another notable event that occurred this year was the groundbreaking "anti-Zuma" marches in April organised by a number of organisations. Citizens from around the country took the working day off to hit the streets in protest, with the Cape Town leg of the march descending on Parliament's doorstep in the tens of thousands.

The march in its entirety was the largest recorded in South Africa in recent memory, with the defence ministry placing numbers at over 60 000, and the police saying it was closer to 100 000.

The country's united voice forced the ANC's NEC to convene a special meeting to discuss Zuma's presidency, and was a catalyst for many an ANC member to start speaking out against his or her party. Truly a day to be bookmarked.

NDZ sworn in

Like Molefe, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's "coming home" was met with much noise in September, but she has not been seen much around the Parliamentary precinct in the months since. The position was likely intended to give the aspirant president-to-be a broader platform to lay her claim for the country's top job, following the end of her tenure at the African Union.

To date, Dlamini-Zuma has made no prominent speeches in any debates in the National Assembly and her attendance record at committee meetings is not yet publicly available. She has no doubt had her hands full, campaigning around the country as she vied to become her party and the country's first woman president.

It will be interesting to see what role she etches out for herself in Parliament now that she has lost her party's election. 

ANC MPs break ranks

The night of August 8 was historic in many ways, as it represents the first time the National Assembly would vote on a motion of no confidence in a president via secret ballot.

Speaker Baleka Mbete's landmark decision to allow a secret vote took many by surprise, but none more than the ANC's 249 MPs, who were passed the biggest political hot potato during Zuma's administration.

The country watched as the vote failed, and President Zuma survived, but the maths showed that at least 30 ANC MPs broke ranks from the party's official position for the first time, sending the message that Zuma no longer enjoyed the full backing of his caucus.

A relieved Zuma thanked his supporters at a make-shift celebration outside the precinct afterwards, but it was clear that things could never be the same again. 

Honourable mentions

* The first private member's bill passed in the National Assembly in November. The bill grants South African dads the right to ten days of paternity leave per child.

* SABC board: Parliament approved the names of the 12 non-executive members who would form a new SABC board in March. Their appointments were the end result of a long grind to restore good governance at the public broadcaster by many ruling and opposition MPs the previous year.

* Mgidlana suspended. Secretary of Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana was placed on precautionary suspension this year after an internal audit report showed a disciplinary was warranted to probe allegations levelled at him for misuse of funds and power.

The National Assembly rose on November 30, and will return in the new year for committee meetings in the week of January 23, 2018. The President's State of the Nation address, the official opening of Parliament, is scheduled for February 8.

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