Parliament finally wakes up to SA’s woes
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