Bark, but no bite

2016-09-11 07:18
Jackson Mthembu

Jackson Mthembu

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

It was a cringeworthy moment in Parliament on Tuesday as ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu sheepishly apologised to the House and its presiding officer over the late arrival of an ANC MP.

This was not the first time that Mthembu had been undermined by his own party in the five months since he had been tasked with steering the ANC in Parliament.

The latecomer this week was Nthibane Mokoto, who sponsored a debate on “the impact of pro-poor programmes on enhancing the performance of basic education”.

But when Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Lechesa Tsenoli called on her to open the debate, Mokoto was nowhere to be seen.

“Chair, we profusely apologise to this House and to you as a presiding officer. On the side of the governing party, we will indeed take action on this matter. We expected all members to be here at 2pm. There is no excuse for the member not to take [to] a podium when you called her to take it,” said Mthembu, after opposition MPs criticised Mokoto’s absence as a sign of disrespect towards the institution.

By this time Mokoto was on the podium, three and a half minutes late.

“Maybe before I start, I must apologise to the House for being late. I hope this will not be repeated again,” she said nonchalantly.

It must have been a humiliating moment for Mthembu, who, after his appointment in March, announced plans to turn things around in the caucus.

He had gone so far as to threaten to call for the dismissal of truant MPs, whose absenteeism from Parliament had repeatedly embarrassed the ANC.

Five months down the line, the absenteeism continues unabated. Even Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa did not seem to have answers when he appeared before Parliament last week.

On its website, the ANC describes a chief whip as someone tasked “to ensure that all ANC MPs perform their functions efficiently, as the most senior party parliamentary office bearer and a political manager and strategist for the ANC caucus, among other things”.

But with each passing day, Mthembu appears more of a paper tiger than an ANC strategist.

He was one of the few ANC leaders who held a different view on the Nkandla saga and acknowledged the scandalous manner in which Parliament dealt with it. Describing it as “unfortunate”, he added that the governing party should account for how it dealt with the matter.

He added that the party should apologise to the nation for Nkandla “because we did lose face. Our actions did not get our people to have confidence in our institution called Parliament.” This he said before the Constitutional Court ruled on the matter.

Despite the court judgment’s finding that the National Assembly, along with President Jacob Zuma, had acted inconsistently with the Constitution by adopting its own resolution to replace the Public Protector’s remedial action, Parliament’s presiding officers deemed it unnecessary to apologise.

“I do not think Parliament, or the National Assembly specifically, is in a position where our understanding [is] that we have done something malicious for which we have to apologise,” said National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, who is also the ANC’s national chairperson.

Again, in July, Mthembu was the only ANC leader to speak out against the SABC, after the public broadcaster introduced a contentious editorial policy which included a ban on screening images of violent protests, followed by suspensions and dismissals of staff members who criticised the clampdown.

Granted, Mthembu chairs the ANC’s subcommittee on communications, which is responsible for formulating and reviewing policy on communications-related issues in the party.

At a press conference in July, he called out the SABC’s “untouchable” chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, saying the corporation was “lacking at the highest managerial level. That is why we keep moving from one crisis to another.”

He then called for an inquiry into the controversies surrounding the SABC which, he said, “tarnish the ANC”.

But when his comrade Communications Minister Faith Muthambi appeared before Parliament’s oversight committee last month, she deflected and blamed everything on an “anti-transformation agenda by the print media, opposition parties and the nongovernmental organisations that serve white interests”.

She pleaded ignorance when it was pointed out to her that Mthembu had raised similar concerns about the SABC on behalf of the ANC.

In the end, she, along with senior executives of the public broadcaster, convinced ANC MPs in the committee – who did not need much convincing – that there was no need to establish an inquiry into the state of affairs at the SABC.

It must be painful for the outspoken Mthembu, the party’s political strategist in Parliament, to be continuously contradicted and undermined by the very caucus he is supposed to manage.

It has become all too clear why the ANC has a high turnover of National Assembly chief whips.


How can Jackson Mthembu reclaim his rightful authority over ANC MPs in Parliament?

SMS us on 35697 using the keyword BARK. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50

Read more on:    jackson mthembu  |  parliament

Join the conversation! 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.

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 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.