As Par­lia­ment re­sumes, MPs could save SA

CityPress - - Voices - Janet Heard voices@city­ Fol­low me on Twit­ter @janet­heard

Ex­pect the tem­per­a­ture to rise dur­ing the third term of the par­lia­men­tary year, which kicks off this week. It has not been busi­ness as usual for hon­ourable mem­bers from day one of the fifth Par­lia­ment. But now, more than three years later, the coun­try is on a knife’s edge, with Par­lia­ment at the cen­tre of the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic storm.

If MPs ful­fil their con­sti­tu­tional duty to act in the in­ter­ests of the peo­ple, they will take the work cut out for them very se­ri­ously.

First up is the in­quiry into shenani­gans at Eskom by the pub­lic en­ter­prises port­fo­lio com­mit­tee. Dur­ing a pre­lim­i­nary meet­ing on Tues­day, it was dis­tress­ing to hear tes­ti­mony from church lead­ers warn­ing that state cap­ture had al­ready gone too far, and we were on the edge of be­com­ing a mafia state. The SA Coun­cil of Churches’ (SACC’s) Bishop Malusi Mpuml­wana said he never thought it pos­si­ble that in a demo­cratic South Africa peo­ple would once again live in fear of the state like they did in the apartheid era.

The mes­sage was clear. When it comes to loot­ing of pub­lic funds, MPs can no longer feign ig­no­rance, sit on the fence, dilly-dad­dle or cover up.

“We are drift­ing into a mafia state … We have a de­formed sit­u­a­tion … We are at a crit­i­cal point … If we don’t act, we will slip,” the SACC’s Rev­erend Pi­eter Grove told MPs.

Yet, red flags have al­ready been raised by the op­po­si­tion. In the pre­lim­i­nary meet­ing, the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu raised con­cerns about ca­pac­ity and re­sources, rec­om­mend­ing that an ex­ter­nal ad­vo­cate be brought in to ad­vise the com­mit­tee.

At least three other in­quiries are ex­pected on state cap­ture – in the trans­port, home af­fairs and min­eral re­sources com­mit­tees. The DA’s John Steen­huisen pointed out that the frag­men­ta­tion threat­ened to place a “stran­gle­hold” on the ef­fec­tive­ness of the process. He rec­om­mended a well­re­sourced ad hoc com­mit­tee to over­see a sin­gle in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Mean­while, the stand­ing com­mit­tee on pub­lic ac­counts has pri­ori­tised hold­ing min­is­ters and en­ti­ties to ac­count over the lat­est R2 bil­lion SAA bailout, the so­cial grants de­ba­cle and tech­ni­cal bank­ruptcy of the wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion de­part­ment, which all threaten to crip­ple the coun­try’s func­tion­ing.

Over­shad­ow­ing ev­ery­thing is the build-up to the vote of no con­fi­dence against Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma on Au­gust 8. If Speaker Baleka Mbete re­jects a se­cret vote, there is likely to be a massive show­down in the Na­tional Assem­bly on Au­gust 8. It could mean that the dis­pute over the process of the mo­tion takes cen­tre stage. This could be ex­actly what Mbete is hoping for: a dis­trac­tion once again from the real is­sue that is di­vid­ing the ANC – Zuma.

Amid all of this, MPs will also have to fo­cus on their reg­u­lar com­mit­tee pro­gramme, which is crammed with im­por­tant over­sight work and pro­cess­ing of leg­is­la­tion.

The sooner the coun­try can move on from this ab­nor­mal sit­u­a­tion the bet­ter, so that the very real chal­lenges can be tack­led for the ben­e­fit of long-suf­fer­ing South Africans, par­tic­u­larly the poor. For this to hap­pen, we need eth­i­cal lead­er­ship, be­fore it is too late.

We are at a crit­i­cal point … If we don’t act, we will slip

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