Par­lia­ment fi­nally wakes up to SA’s woes

CityPress - - Voices - Janet Heard voices@city­press.co.za

As the year comes to a close, Par­lia­ment has at­tempted to claw back an iota of cred­i­bil­ity. After a few years of cover-ups and dilly-dal­ly­ing over run­away state abuses, the in­sti­tu­tion that the pub­lic de­pends on to hold the ex­ec­u­tive and pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions to ac­count be­gan to creak into ac­tion.

A board of in­quiry into the SABC fi­nally got un­der way this week, lay­ing bare the shock­ing and pro­tracted de­cay at the pub­lic broad­caster. Skil­fully chaired by Vin­cent Smith in com­mit­tee room E249, the MPs tasked with un­rav­el­ling the mess demon­strated that if there is po­lit­i­cal will – cru­cially among mem­bers of the ma­jor­ity party – then ef­fec­tive mul­ti­party over­sight is achiev­able.

So com­mit­ted is the en­er­gised com­mit­tee that the in­quiry will con­tinue to sit through De­cem­ber and Jan­uary, even though Par­lia­ment’s pro­gramme ended for the year this week.

But lis­ten­ing to tes­ti­mony from wit­nesses, one can only feel anger that the cul­ture of im­punity and un­ac­count­abil­ity was al­lowed to drag on for so long, de­spite court rul­ings and ap­peals for ur­gent in­ter­ven­tion from within the SABC, op­po­si­tion par­ties and civil so­ci­ety.

Par­lia­ment’s softly-softly re­sponse to deal­ing with glar­ing trans­gres­sions mir­rors the state of play in the ANC. For too long, mem­bers re­mained silent and de­fen­sive. As the suc­ces­sion bat­tle in­ten­si­fies, the gatvol voices are emerg­ing, and this out­spo­ken­ness is fil­ter­ing down on to the ANC benches via chief whip Jack­son Mthembu.

But Par­lia­ment has a lot of work to do to mend some of the rep­u­ta­tional dam­age.

Speaker Baleka Mbete – ac­com­pa­nied by her new hus­band, Nape Khomo – chose to high­light suc­cesses dur­ing her end-of-year ad­dress to the me­dia in the Old Assem­bly din­ing room this week.

She was ques­tioned by par­lia­men­tary jour­nal­ists, who saw things dif­fer­ently after wit­ness­ing how the ANC stub­bornly closed ranks around Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma in var­i­ous ad hoc com­mit­tees and the jus­tice com­mit­tee to shield him from ac­count­abil­ity over spend­ing at his home in Nkandla.

This was con­firmed in March by Chief Jus­tice Mo­go­eng Mo­go­eng, who ruled that Par­lia­ment had acted against the Con­sti­tu­tion by pro­cess­ing Po­lice Min­is­ter Nathi Nh­leko’s laugh­able re­port that ab­solved Zuma of all li­a­bil­ity.

There­fore, no amount of spin or last­minute catch­ing up will erase the fact that 2016 will go down as the year that Par­lia­ment re­ceived a nasty, hu­mil­i­at­ing klap from the Con­sti­tu­tional Court.

Mbete’s deputy, Lech­esa Tsenoli, vowed this week that the Nkandla rul­ing was a “bit­ter les­son” that will never be re­peated. Amid the un­fold­ing rev­e­la­tions about state cap­ture, Tsenoli had bet­ter be true to his word about Par­lia­ment when the new year starts.

This year will go down as the year that Par­lia­ment re­ceived a hu­mil­i­at­ing klap from the ConCourt

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