Balance of power intact
THERE has been much to worry about in South Africa’s body politic in recent months. The narrative has been relentless, tales of state capture dominating and permeating right through to bedrock.
Our leaders haven’t helped; some have been actively stoking up the fires, playing the race card in acts of shameful expedience to deflect attention, while others have been conspicuous by their absence, deafening the discourse with their silence.
There is much, though, to be more than happy about, particularly how the judiciary and the legislature have been working to check and balance the executive.
For many, Parliament has become defined by the singularly appalling behaviour – on both sides of the House – which has come to define what should be the pomp and ceremony of its opening and the delivery of the State of the Nation address.
This is unfortunate because it ignores the incredible work being done by the portfolio committees set up to provide democratic oversight over the various ministries.
There was a brief glimpse of their potential during the halcyon Mandela era, but the committees – like Parliament in general – began their slow and inexorable decline in the Mbeki era. Now, though, they have rediscovered their teeth, managing to work together despite political differences to hold ministers, directors-general and heads of state-owned enterprises to account.
We saw just how effective they could be during the long-running SABC debacle under the Teflonlike regime of Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
Last week, it was the turn of Water and Sanitation portfolio committee director-general Dan Matshitizo, who failed to appear despite being ordered by Minister Nomvula Mokonyane to represent her. His absence served only to spur members to give him a lecture in absentia on his role and responsibilities – and, indeed, some of the sanctions he and other errant public servants or politicians could face in the near future. This includes the possibility of having to operate without a budget and, by inference, no funds for salaries.
It was a perfect lesson in the balance of power between the arms of government in a democracy.