Minister Nene maps survival route

Not so merry Christmas….

Editorial……

candlesWithout wishing to put a dampener on festive arrangements, the last few weeks of the closing parliamentary session, which included the medium term budget from minister Nene, have seen a difficult period, not in the least caused by fiascos in the National Assembly with the EFF. Baiting President Zuma, whatever the reason, has nothing to do with running a country.

Such hooligan behaviour completely demeans the status of Parliament but worse, it also denigrates all the real work that is going on the engine room of Parliament, the working committees.  Some observers are quietly happy that the ANC Alliance is being called to account on certain matters but the overall effect has been to take South Africa perceptually into dangerous waters.

Nkandla unpleasant diversion

The Nkandla issue has clearly damaged the political standing of Parliament as well as giving the media a field day, or a field month as the case turned out to be.  But in the parliamentary portfolio, ad hoc, finance standing and NCOP select committees, the work has gone on and it has been a busy and difficult period as a result of the necessity to approve finance minister Nene’s medium term budget.

Difficult because some fifty utilities, government departments and section nine companies had to declare their objectives, say how things were going and reflect upon the auditor general’s findings on each of them.   Difficult because cabinet statements are really giving no true direction on questions being asked every day in Parliament.   Difficult because it is still the first year of a new Parliament and everything is running late with new MPs.

Whilst the auditor general (AG) may have declared that government departments only received 15% unqualified reports, the balance of 85% are qualified to some degree by the AG.  A learning process. This means the working committees have seen it, everyone knows about it and the system works. This is the difference between weekend newspaper reporting and monitoring. It is not just a question of putting a positive spin on things but recognising that there is, indeed, a force working for morality and financial correctness.

Focus is on medium term budget

Nevertheless, minister Nene’s budget speech was still the key issue of the last month, not Nkandla as the perception might be.  Nene’s remarks that “business is a key area in fostering the ideal that the NDP becomes a reality” had the all too familiar ring of what Alec Erwin had to say twenty years ago when the ANC promised private and public partnerships on energy matters. Nothing happened of course, the ANC embarking upon ten years of infrastructure inactivity.

In fact major private sector participation in the country’s development was totally halted at that point and has since never really got going.

When is when?

Now the question is being asked once again as to whether the government will actually ever embark upon real hard core private/public investments, other than dishing out a few solar and wind power projects. This is the question being asked by opposition MPs in Parliament at working committee level, ignoring for the moment the embarrassing fracas upstairs in the National Assembly.

It is difficult to imagine in parliamentary terms that minister Rob Davies, minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, minister Jeff Radebe, minister Lindiwe Sisulu and minister Lynne Brown will ever truly understand the tenets, motivations and passion that drive businesses, even perhaps the President himself.  South Africa suffers from bad politicians, not necessarily bad government.

Circus with no ringmaster

What the presidential national planning commission is actually saying to the cabinet is an issue that cannot be guessed at by anybody at this stage, such private messages certainly not being conveyed in Parliamentary papers. In fact nobody seems to be talking, the DA having as little knowledge as half the SA cabinet, it appears.

Consequently minister Nene’s hopes appear somewhat lame at this stage. To be positive however, it may be that as next year’s parliamentary oversight programme on service delivery targets gains momentum, as it has already, accompanied with all the political pain that will occur if voters remain dissatisfied, political reality may force the governing party to at last start walking the talk that minister Nene espouses.

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