Archive | earlier editorials

Parliament goes into Easter recess

….editorial….

Now you see it, now you don’t

……    It has now become almost impossible to avoid the use of the time-honoured expression “politics aside” when following legislative developments in Parliament.

The body politic affects most things all the time – from drafting a Bill to a
government media briefing, from debating a departmental investigation to public hearings on new legislation. It all involves the ideology of who is in charge.

In fact, the Oxford Dictionary describes “politics’ as follows: the activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power.

From this one can see how politics will always continue to dominate government policy, legislation, and the parliamentary process, since in the end all permeates down from Cabinet decisions. That’s the way it works. Until of course the moment occurs that corruption, cronyism and state capture dictate the parliamentary process itself.

Then the fine line between policy and politics gets rather tacky. Shady motives such as personal gain or protection from the law become evident. What started out as well-meaning policy can get warped by politics and the passage of legislation becomes erratic, if not unconstitutional.

Coded language

Clearly there are now two Cabinets in South Africa. Also, there are various government departments that tend to follow one faction or another, all reporting to their respective portfolio committees. Of these, some seem to adhere to parliamentary rules on oversight and others seem to be less deep in their probing.

This explains why Jackson Mthembu, Chief ANC Party Whip who conveys ANC messages to the party loyal in Parliament, plays such a critical and pivotal role.

When it becomes ‘a given’ that those in control willfully use the top-down structure to their advantage and become joined at the hip with the party list system, then the decision to follow the orders of the party begin to involve a fear of being unable to pay the school fees or pay the lease on the recently acquired BMW.

It is the party list system that is our constitutional blind spot. It encourages cronyism, defined once again in the Oxford Dictionary as: the appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority, without proper regard to their qualifications.

No change

When this aberration of the democratic process occurs on a regular basis, the expression “politics aside” seems to come back into usage. This time for a different reason.

Understandably, one cannot go through the whole laborious process in every debate and with every turn of inexplicable behaviour explaining the manipulation of facts or non-disclosure of relevant information; the influence that certain business persons have upon policy decisions; or the behaviour of state department heads who seems oblivious of their duties.

Therefore politically-correct shortcuts become necessary in order that one’s own opinion is not involved. It’s a sort of coded language that straight up and down people use as a replacement for the real thing.

So, politics aside, President Zuma is still holding up the Financial Intelligence Centre Bill to combat money laundering. Politics aside, Minister of Mining, Mosebenzi Zwane, is still attempting to get fifty-six changes adopted under the already approved Mineral and Petroleum Resources Amendment Bill and, politics aside, the Expropriation Bill is back with Parliament once again.

The good news

Far more interesting is that, politics aside, the separation of powers is still working to a greater or lesser degree; the legislative process is still being respected by most and irritating some; and the Constitutional Court is still out there as our standard bearer, minus a number of computers.

 

…. and, politics aside, we could be doing so much better.

editorial.... parlyreportsa....27 march 2017

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Madonsela: state capture and corruption…

says, Zuma involved in state capture.. 

editorial.. To those who know, the silence after a bomb goes off is quite uncanny. Like the state capture bomb. Even birdsongthuli-madonsela-2 ceases and the world seems to halt for a few seconds.  Then as things start up again, people seem to gabble. Everybody is rushing about. Life starts up but the noise seems incredible, if you can hear at all that is.   Following this comes the sickening realization that there might be a second bomb.   One seems helpless.

So it was when the Public Protector’s Report on State Capture was released.   Most had the feeling that to see in writing upon the frontispiece the words “state capture” was quite surreal.   Up until then it was rumour; an “alleged” idea; something that was always “strongly denied”; certainly, shady but in any case, difficult to prove… but it certainly shouldn’t happen in our backyard anyway.

Truth must out

thuli-encaThen the bombshell report was released.  The world seemed to halt in silence whilst its 355 pages were digested. Then came the voices, mostly loud and some quite vociferous.  Some demanded more proof; some demanded immediate retribution. Many asked for the President to step down, following which was a festival of interviews on e-NCA.    Meanwhile, in Parliament the corridors went quiet.   Like a phoney war.

Rewind

Whether there is a second bomb in the form of the Hawks and the NPA again charging Minister Pravin Gordhan is purely conjecture at this stage.   It is part of a process that Parliament is not privy to.   Parliamentarians must just watch these parties go about their business, unfortunately at the expense of a jittery investment market.

What we do know is that all judicial and parliamentary processes are painfully slow and this iscropped-sa-parliament-2.jpg as it must be.   Witness the complaints if a Bill is rushed or “hammered” through Parliament.  It rarely works when carried out at speed and the process is exposed for its faults.

The law may be an ass at times and very laborious but it is there to fight corruption.  To eventually win a case against such a difficult-to-prove crime may take time but it is devastatingly successful when achieved.

However, the name Gupta is not responsible for everything.   Some of unpleasant exposures, especially in the energy field, are the result of massive incompetence rather than a temptation of financial gain.

Taking time

In ParlyReportSA, now with clients, we detail four painfully long processes which eventually will result in what may not be liked by some but have been correctly subjected to the slow but democratic procedure of Parliament – the MPRDA Bill; the investigation into the tina-joemattIkwhezi R14.5bn loss; the sale of South Africa’s strategic oil reserves; and how the mini-budget of Minister Pravin Gordhan has evaded the claws of state capture.

Our constitutional, and therefore our parliamentary system which is integrated into it, is subject to a clause which states that the president of the country is the person who is elected as the president of the ruling party’s National Executive.    This outcome only changes if that person is found guilty of breaking the law or his and her oath of office. For this outcome to be proven can take much time.

Patience a virtue

Gratifyingly also, amongst many outstanding court procedures underway, the arduous parliamentary and legislative process to ensure a recalcitrant President gets around to signing the FICA Bill, is underway.

His signature is needed in order that the countrzuma1y can meet international banking obligations and comply with money-laundering disclosure requirements. The fact that the President has not signed it, as was put before him by Parliament and has provided no reason for the apparent lack of inertia to do so, speaks volumes.  Probably a case for personal privacy will be tabled by his defence team, if he gets to need one.

Delaying tactics

Either the President in this instance will waste taxpayer’s money with a long drawn out case or be advised to withdraw, as has been his practice up until now, by acceding at the last minute and will have signed or be told to.

zwaneHe and his associates know that this Bill is a critical tool in the fight against illegal transfers of funds by “prominent persons”.  Minister Zwane’s fight with the banking sector is an unnecessary sideshow connected to this process. More becomes evident in the media , day by day, of this gentleman’s shady dealings.

Dark forces

Another fight calling for patience and now being unearthed is the level of corruption within intelligence services, Hawks and the NPA.  Hopefully, this is not as deep as the relationship that Robert Mugabe had with Nicolae Ceaușescu of Hungary, based on which he built his CIO and followed the advice gained from his training with Nangking Military Academy.

hawks logoHopefully also, with the NPA, Hawks and other major undercover government departments, only such matters as  graft involving as rhino trade and state capture bribes are the tools of trade involved and the aim remains simply self-enrichment.

Hope springs

The “goodies” in South Africa have much to undertake in order to beat the “baddies”, not helped by senior ANC officials not getting off the fence for fear of being demoted on the party list and losing their pensions.    All the same, there are so many good men and women speaking out at the moment from all spheres of political and business life,  the ANC in particular,  that “the force” would appear unstoppable.

Getting Parliament back into control and equal to the Cabinet will be a long process andparliament mandela statue calling for extreme patience, as manifested by our greatest President who demonstrated such incredible patience over many years in his long walk to freedom.

Previous articles on category subject

FIC Bill hold up goes to roots of corruption – ParlyReportSA

Parliament: National Assembly traffic jam – ParlyReportSA

Red tape worries with FIC Bill – ParlyReportSA

Anti-Corruption Unit overwhelmed – ParlyReportSA

 

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, earlier editorials, Energy, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Justice, constitutional, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

FIC Bill hold up goes to roots of corruption

Bill originally approved by Cabinet

.….. sent to clients 20 Aug…..Going to the heart of the issues facing National Treasury on money launderingzuma9 and financial crime, or in this specific case the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Bill (FIC Bill), is the failure of President Zuma to give assent to the Bill and to sign it into law.

The delay in adding his signature gives yet another signal that there is lack of interface in constitutional terms between the Presidency, the Cabinet, National Treasury and Parliament and all of this adds more uncertainty in the economic sphere.

fic-logo-2The main objective of the FIC Bill is to conform with international pressure placed upon South Africa to update its governance ability to monitor international financial crime. During the passage of the Bill, however, it became quite evident to interested parties that the Bill could expose a lot more about South Africa’s own internal money laundering, inflows and outflows, than simply making a contribution to the global money laundering problem.

This, of course, was the original point made by international agencies when calling upon countries to agree to such legislation.    Countries have to clean up their own affairs in the process.

Crime busting

Africa MoneyThe Bill intends enhancing South Africa’s anti-money laundering (AML) processes to combat more effectively the crime of financing of terrorism to be achieved by amending the anchor Financial Intelligence Centre Act “so as to define certain expressions”.

However, in exposing monies destined for terrorism, a lot more than just terrorism could become evident in the category to be classed as “prominent persons”, a fact which has been endlessly debated in Parliament and why the Bill has come to the fore in the media.

More entrants

The fact that some in the Cabinet may not like the preamble to the Bill is evident, particularly expressed byzwane Minister Zwane in his ridiculous call for a judicial investigation to investigate the motives for calling the banking sector to report to Treasury on individual groupings and persons and for an investigation into the banks themselves for closing the accounts of certain “prominent persons”.

The target of Minister Zwane’s diatribe, the major banks, are a grouping simply preparing for the FIC Bill to become law since they know it was tabled by the Minister of Finance, having been approved by the Cabinet in the first place and having made considerable input to the parliamentary process. Also they must realize that the Bill in turn will make considerable demands upon them in terms of time and money and will be a test of integrity for all.

Split in the ranks

ramaphosaThe delay, even if for a moment, is one of many factors giving rise to the belief that the Cabinet is “at war with itself”, a fact which Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa admits. President Zuma attempted dismally at first to distance himself from Minister Zwane’s attack on the banks, then seemingly relented but suspiciously will not let the banks proceed with the FIC Bill by making it law to set up the paper trails.

Commentators say the President is effectively involved in a web of issues involving alleged “state capture” and perhaps therefore instructions to hold up the Bill maybe upon advice from elsewhere from parties involved in the bigger picture.

No stroke of the pen

However, the very act of signing or not will eventually show if it is the President is alone in this matter since a cabinet statement in 2015 stated that the Cabinet had approved for the Bill for tabling.Parliament awaits, holding its breath, for clarification from the Presidency.  President Zuma is now, of course, embroiled on issues over the Public Protector’s report on “stature capture” by the Gupta family and, like so many other important state issues, the FIC Bill has gone on to the back burner.

In the meanwhile others, including actors who would definitely be defined as “prominent persons” as defined by the new Bill, are now crowding the stage and expressing their views, so the FIC Bill must be touching a raw nerve somewhere.

The old argument

jimmy-manyiDespite the Bill being passed by State Law Advisors, now one Jimmy Manyi, previously a corporate public affairs head, a DG in the Department of Labour and previously a Cabinet spokesperson and recently President of the Progressive Professionals Forum – all in a short period of time – has lodged a constitutional challenge to the Bill, presumably on the basis of invasion of rights regarding pr1vacy. 

MPs have complained that the Bill in question has been debated at length over one year at portfolio committee level; hearings were conducted with public expression therefore being accounted for and finally the Bill was passed by a unanimous vote in the National Assembly.  Whether nefarious or not, one must assume that any delay by the President is for good financial reason and bearing in mind the call is in fact an international call to upgrade the SA money laundering watch, the stakes are high.

At this stage nothing is stated as fact and rumours abound.     An exasperated Minister of Finance Gordon Pravin stated in an interview run by E-NCA, “Well if I can’t get the Bill through then we must just try something else.” He added, “They had just better come and arrest me. What have I done?”, he asked.

The aim

pravingordhanIndeed, the parliamentary record shows quite clearly what Minister Pravin has done.    By introducing this Bill and having had it agreed to in the National Assembly, a paper trail  is to be established in conjunction with banks on any suspicious movement of money involving “prominent persons”.   Locked cupboards will be looked into therefore and it seems as if someone or a section in the Cabinet  has had second thoughts about the Bill.

Hopefully, the stall is only temporary and the Public Protector’s report is released

Aims of Bill

Treasury originally said in their briefing to Parliament that the four principal objects of the Bill were to align the country with international standards on AML and to counter terrorist bodies; to enhance customer due diligence within financial institutions; to provide for the implementation of the UN security council resolutions relating tomoney laundering the freezing of assets of persons suspected of financial crimes; and for the FIC to introduce a risk-based approach by financial entities to the current aspects international financial crime.

Treasury countered any argument that dis-investment would be encouraged by the Bill with the answer that a lack of compliance with international rules by South would be worse but now the silence on the FIC Bill seems to have taken a back seat in National Assembly questioning in the face of rows over state funding, “state capture” and individual financial investigative probes.

Prominent persons

yunus carrimMuch debate, took place at the time within the Standing Committee on Finance when the Bill was originally debated over the definition of “prominent persons both domestic and foreign”. These were the persons who were to be monitored as part of the Treasury’s appeal to banks “to know their clients better”. The meetings were chaired by the obdurate, diligent and politically respected Yunus Carrim (SACP) and finally recommended to the House.

Treasury’s Ismail Momoniat was at pains to state to Parliament at the time that “there was no implication or presumption that prominent persons being investigated were presumed to be involved in any financial crime.”

Getting to know you

Probably the provisions most likely to affect entities operating in South Africa are the clauses affecting due diligence. Those that are accountable in terms of the Act will be required to undertake ongoing customer due diligence overviews in order to establish the identity of “the beneficial owner” and a customer’s full identity and whereabouts.

This might be where the problem lies for Cabinet, not necessarily just about the “G people”, as referred to indavid maynier Parliament by David Maynier, Shadow Finance Minister (DA), but which might involve issues of party funding – the sources of which at the moment do not have to be declared to Parliament.

Objective views

As put by Roger Southall, Professor of Sociology, University of Johannesburg and quoted in précis form by Creamer Polity, “The ANC is appropriately anti-corruption in its official stance, and indeed has put in place important legislation and mechanisms to control malfeasance. Equally, however, it has proved reluctant to undertake enquiries which could prove embarrassing.” Parastatals still account for around 15% of GDP, Southhall notes.

Whilst Minister Lynne Brown said she was determined to overhaul all state entities, nobody its seems was ready for President Zuma to assume the chair of the new idea of a State Owned Enterprises Council, meaning that he is in charge of para-state strategy – the policy of which was announced many months ago in that government wants a greater slice of the R500m spend on goods and services to go to emergent suppliers.

President Zuma said in Parliament on that issue that the reason for the consolidation was to bring about cross-cutting coordination as a policy within state utilities.

Getting control

Southall continues in his article in similar vein, “The ANC continues to regard the parastatals as ‘sites of transformation’ with certain corporations distributing financial largesse to secure contracts and favour from government. However, their success in so doing is hard to prove given the secrecy of party funding. Secondly, ANC politicians at all levels of government have sought to influence the tender process in their favour.”

On the good side, the Department of Public Service and Administration has, for instance, a draft a Bill underway for Parliament that will require all government departments to put in place measures to prohibit employees and those in special consultancy positions from “directly or indirectly” doing business with government.

Furthermore, the Public Finance Management Act, signed by President Zuma, has proven to be a well-tuned tool to control misdirected state expenditure. The FIC Bill will be the anchor legislation needed to dig deeper into AML money movements.

Who blinks first

fic-bookWith the FIC Bill, the next move then must come from the Presidency, if he remains in  office, to give good reason to send the Bill back to the Parliament despite the agreement of the South African banking system to comply with Treasury requirements to report. This is a day-to-day developing issue.

Quite clearly, some banks have forestalled their problems by refusing to handle certain business banking accounts of “prominent persons”, perhaps pre-empting that the Bill would receive Presidential assent and thus earning the ire of Minister Zwane “in his personal capacity”.

Whether the FIC Bill might get further to the very roots of the party funding system is another matter but for the moment the focus was on “prominent persons” and the necessity to get the banks into action in terms of the law.

Meanwhile, the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry will continue to debate the “Twin Peaks” legislation which will again tighten up on banking and financial procedures on both regulatory and prudential aspects. But here again, there might be delays.

Previous articles on category subject
Red tape worries with FIC Bill – ParlyReportSA
Parliament, ConCourt and Business – ParlyReportSA
PIC comes under pressure to disclose – ParlyReportSA

Posted in cabinet, earlier editorials, Finance, economic, Home Page Slider, LinkedIn, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Parliament awaits to hear from Cabinet

Same Parliament, same Cabinet, different mood

..editorial……Parliament has now resumed with the same Cabinet, the same 400 MPs, the same ANC Allianceparliament 6 majority instructed whips and the same names in the party benches but the ambiance is very different.     This subtle fact, however, matters little in the immediate future.   Legislation before the National Assembly (NA) will still be subject to a simple numbers game when it comes to voting. Well, almost.

In the case of a Section 76 Bill, that is a Bill that needs not merely the concurrence of that portion of the 400 MPs that sit in the NCOP but subject to full debate by all nine provinces and a mandate returned in favour or not, there might be the beginnings of healthier opposition. Power at local level has been emboldened since Parliament last met.

So far, matters of consequence have been that the Department of Energy has presented its REIPPP plan with support from most other than Eskom with no Minister present and the Mineral Resources Portfolio Committee has re-endorsed a revised Minerals and Petroleum  Resources Development Amendment Bill for process by the NCOP using its ANC majority. Again no Minister was present. Eskom will be presenting on this and matters regarding coal any day.

Old tricks

jacob zumaHowever, presuming the picture in Parliament stays as it is until the 2019 national election with Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma at the helm as President, it will be interesting to see what type and how much legislation is hammered through the NA by the ANC using the same old tactic of deploying party whips with threats of being moved down on the party list system for a total majority, timed last year in a rush just before a recess.

Notably, now in the case of three Bills sent for assent after being voted through, the three were not signed by President Zuma into law acting on legal advice.

With this trio now back with Parliament on the grounds of either suspected unconstitutionality and/or incorrect parliamentary procedure, the issue is now whether the coterie of Cabinet Ministers that surround the President, with Director Generals appointed by and who report to those Ministers, will take Parliament more seriously.

Not hearing

Good advice is not good advice when it comes in the form of a last minute warning not to put signature to any Bill thereby turning it into an Act of law. Plenty of such advice not do this in respect of a number of Bills was previously given during parliamentary portfolio committee debate, at parliamentary public hearings from affected institutions, business and industry and even earlier in public comment when the Bills were first published by gazette in draft form.

Similarly, the lesson seems not to be learnt in higher echelons that the independent regulatory entities are also not to be ignored – institutions from the Office of the Public Prosecutor to ICASA, from NERSA through to the board of the Central Energy Fund and from National Treasury to international courts, the UN and international bodies protecting human rights. Parliament is due to hear from ICASA any moment.

Most worrying, however, are the attempts to by-pass Treasury when presenting policy to Parliament. Ideological bullying can bankrupt a country in no time.

Such issues as Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s National Health Insurance dream and Minister Joemat-Pettersson/President Jacob’s Zuma’s dream of six nuclear energy reactors – plans that the country should not possibly not countenance from a financial aspect – have neither been presented to Parliament in the proper national budget planning form or officially and financially endorsed.

Missing money details

Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, has gone as far as a White Paper to Parliament on the NHI and Minister Joemat-Pettersson has briefed Parliament on nuclear tendering. Treasury have said nothing about a financial plan in each case. Money is short, as evidenced by Treasury stepping in on the provisions for BEE preferential procurement. Somewhere there is a disconnect.

As for President Zuma’s continued pressure to bring traditional leaders into the equation with what amounts to two separate judicial systems and has even talked of the equivalent of four tiers of government – one therefore not even reporting to Parliament and certainly no idea of local government and nor subject to the PMFA  has its problems. President Zuma has used his ally, the Minister of Justice, to table the Traditional Courts Bill before Parliament. Opposition parties will walk out on that one, we are sure.

The Speaker of the House, Baleka Mbete, as part of the same coterie, has made a mild signal that the days of Cabinet maverick behaviour, even arrogance, towards Parliament and no respect for the separation of powers may be coming to an end. The SACP is clearly not happy. That is where the new ambiance felt in an unchanged Parliament may play an unofficial part and pressure may start building.

 
Previous articles on category subject
Parliament to open Aug 16 – ParlyReportSA
Parliament under siege – ParlyReportSA
Radical White Paper on NHI published – ParlyReportSA
Zuma’s nuclear energy call awaits Treasury – ParlyReportSA
Here it comes again…. the Traditional Courts Bill – ParlyReportSA

Posted in cabinet, earlier editorials, Electricity, Energy, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Health, Justice, constitutional, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Parliament to open Aug 16

Parliament .. in a galaxy far, far away

 

……editorial….There’s nothing  more like an election to disrupt Parliament and the business of running a country thanparliament 6 an election.    Probably, and to a lesser extent, the same is going on in the USA but nevertheless few politicians in SA at present seem to have their eye on the ball when it comes to important decisions on matters of state.     Parliament is, of course, in recess.

A good many of the Cabinet seem to be on a different planet. Some appear to be focusing on putting out political fires in the lead up to what is, after all, only a local election. A disproportionate amount of time seems to be spent in a parallel world of infighting, all of it totally unrelated to business and industry. Our Cabinet seem more concerned with issues such as the SABC, for example.

Short on crew

Indeed, one could be forgiven for thinking that the only people at their desks at the moment are Mark Barnes at the Post Office, Minister Lynne Brown with her fight to reform public utilities and control Eskom’s statements; members of the Competition Commission; and Minister of Finance Gordhan Pravin and his Treasury crew.

On communications matters outstanding, Minister Faith Muthambi seems to have left the planet altogether.  Minister Cwele is fighting with his own colleagues on broadband allocation,putting the brakes on a desperately late decision. tina-joematt

Minister Joemat-Pettersson seems lost as to whether to go ahead with nuclear or not; now having to decide it seems whether to have more independent power providers or not and possibly reverse her promises to the private sector; trying fruitlessly to buy Chevron with SFF money and whether or not to renew the contracts of highly experienced personnel at NERSA. This Minister seems badly off radar.

Hands off

Eskom’s unexpected statement that the private sector REIPPP clean energy programme “makes no economic sense” must have wounded DTI’s investment programme and Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, also seems missing from the control deck in the light of  Zimbabwe trade inconsistencies. Again, living in another world far, far away, not having a plan “B”.

Meanwhile, the Presidency has a whole in-tray of unresolved legislative issues to make decisions upon and, sadly,Rob-Davies decision-making appears not to be the President’s forté.     Parliament re-opens for business on 16 August and it won’t be a moment too soon.

From now until the Christmas recess, matters before Parliament will vitally affect business and industry. It would seem doubly important therefore to get this election over and hope for some coherent policy statements from Cabinet.
Previous articles on category subject
Parliament and the investment climate – ParlyReportSA
Parliament closes on sour note – ParlyReportSA
Parliament, ConCourt and Business – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, earlier editorials, Finance, economic, LinkedIn0 Comments

Parliament and the investment climate

Seven issues spooking investment…….

editorial……Nothing, absolutely nothing, will stop growth more effectively than to be constantly changing the investment national assemblyclimate by altering the playing field levels; criminalising business for non-compliance of local laws which have nothing to do with business; and bringing about the kind of atmosphere of uncertainty in which investors are constantly attempting to establish current government policy and the reasons for any changes.

Not to understand the reasons is sometimes worse than disagreeing with them. At least if one dislikes an idea one can usually work around the issue. As long as you know its constant its good for investment.

What we know

At parliamentary portfolio committee level, the issue of transformation has been accepted by all as necessary. All are agreed that apartheid was a terrible thing. Most realize that taxes will, without doubt go up, such as carbon tax and probably VAT, as will the cost of living. Most are agreed that service delivery in respect of the ideals of the NDP, especially at local level, is pretty poor.

Also, most agree that just before any kind of election, parliamentarians say some pretty odd things and make totally impractical promises in order to get votes. Look at the USA. However, in rating agency terms of where we stand in South Africa most of these issues have been “discounted”, to use their term.

What we need to know

stone sizaniHowever, in Parliament, cabinet statements, budget vote speeches and government departmental briefings are important to study in terms of trying to establish some measure of understanding as to where government is headed. The aim is always to establish certainty, not give views.

With certainty in the offing, capital investment can be planned for and growth expected. A clearer picture of government policy is always necessary for the greenhouse of ideas in planned expansion and development; whether the plans are worth the risk to exploit and, furthermore, to create an environment where the international message goes out…… this is the place to invest.

What we don’t knowgreen question mark

So what is troubling investors?    Aside from the nonsense going on at the SABC, here’s a few ideas and we are sure there are more….

Seven good reasons for a start:

1. What is the real plan of execution behind the Expropriation Bill? Definitions ranging from “the basis of land reform”; queries on the definition on “the public interest”; and a determination, it appears, not to study the constitutional aspects; all these queries and worries contribute to uncertainty.

2. Imagine what happened to planning departments in the mining industry during the last eight months with Minister Zwane’s surprise contributions to BEE shareholder arrangements and also by stating he was turning charters into law, presumably as part of MPRDA legislation. Uncertainty reigned.

3. It’s not good to hear that the BEE pointing system is to change yet again under the Preferential Procurement Act in major sectors that contribute to growth. One understands that President Zuma warned of this in SONA but how many more changes are to come but how many more times will DTI refine their idealogical BEE process?

4. When are intellectual property uncertainties to end? Where is the new legislation? Planning for the internationals in the pharmaceutical industry can hardly be easy.

5. New climate change fuel specifications are upon us and the Minister of Energy is totally uncertain on this issue, as she is with gas exploration, shale gas, a state refinery and the energy mix generally. Many potential investors have given up the waiting around and have gone, whether the oil price drop was to blame or not.

6. Minimum wage legislation will eventually arrive as far as the human resources environment is concerned but labour law as a whole is in flux with new drafts still with NEDLAC. South Africa is now rated one of the worst countries for an uncertain labour climate.

7. The national health insurance scheme coming from the likes of Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is foggy, unsettling to the financial world and confusing to medical health providers. Issuing White Papers is fine but turning these into legislation requires a finely tuned plan and policy directive. One never knows what the good doctor is to say next.

Cabinet cohesion

A lot of the problems come either from Ministers with little interest in the investment climate and who are probably not up the demands of their portfolio, or who appear to have “hobby horses” of their own. In addition, the friction between National Treasury and the Cabinet, so evident in Parliament, is adding fuel to the fire in terms of financial uncertainty.

A good orchestra always needs a good conductor with the ability of bringing people together accompanied by legislative certainty providing the musical score. South Africa badly needs a leader who can do this.

In parliamentary terms, most will be more relaxed when the current local elections are over; Parliament can restart and pressure then applied again to get clarity on exactly what investors can and should expect.

Previous articles on category subject
Parliament, ConCourt and Business – ParlyReportSA
Minister Brown wants utility shareholder management – ParlyReportSA
Editorial: Working committees – ParlyReportSA

Posted in earlier editorials, LinkedIn0 Comments

Parliament closes on sour note

Oversight role threatened…..

editorial…..

We have to admit it was not a happy Parliament that closed on 25 May 2016. Whilst we try to ignore newspaper parliament mandela statuescandals and listen to the more serious debate of those trying to get things right in the interests of the country, it was indeed a troubled Parliament that went into recess.

We have delayed our report to catch the last of the meetings before the election period. Usually, where there is a forthcoming election, whether national or provincial, there are many unreasonable statements from politicians. However, it seems that this time, there are lot more issues and certainly a lot more abrasive statements than usual.

Politics aside

Many such matters have involved the question of relationships with Parliament – the institution that is supposed to stand apart, like the judicial, from political machinations. Separation of these powers is critical to the process of halting a democracy from becoming a dictatorship, so it becomes important not to enter this space. However, quite clearly some members of the Cabinet, even perhaps the Presidency, are trying to by-pass Parliament on the question of oversight.

Although this is strongly denied on every occasion when the subject comes up, it becomes more and more difficult to tell whether government officials are having pressure applied on them when it comes to telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to Parliament.

Hence, also it is difficult to discern true government policy in the long term as distinct from Cabinet putting out fires in the short term. We will be glad when this period in South African politics comes to an end, which hopefully it will.

Parliament and its system

Mbete,Baleka sworninIt would seem to us, a fact which is supported by most commentators, that the party list system is one of the culprits in this area – a system a whereby a member of Parliament stays in service, complete with salary and pension, according to his or her adjudged service to the cause.

Secondly, all directors general of government departments are, in most cases, party appointments and currently every chairperson of every committee in Parliament is a member of the ANC Alliance. It is the integrity of that person, therefore, that matters and this, we afraid to say, seems not to be coming through from the Cabinet. Every country gets the government they deserve (Joseph de Maistre).

All is not as at it appears

It came as a shock to many to learn that what had been listened to in Parliament, such as statements and presentations from directors general and CEOs of utilities or SOEs representing massive structures such as Eskom, PetroSA, Central Energy Fund, Police Services, Defence (and even PIC), that all was not quite, shall we say, totally accurate – even in expensive powerpoint presentations and in long convoluted answers to the Auditor General. The trend has been a painful experience to observe.

The cowboys, such as Lucky Montana of PRASA – now disgraced, were relatively easy to spot. Quite clearly his parliamentary reports were dubious and the presentations he made were an attempt to cover up foolish mistakes and bad management but there had remained a feeling of enthusiasm to succeed in his case. Just somebody in charge who shouldn’t have been.

However, in the case of “pressure coming from the top”, there are the odd stories continually emanating from the energy debate and matters related. These are disquieting, as are matters relating to broadband allocation, the aviation industry and land reform coupled with traditional affairs and matters related to expropriation.

Divided

Aside from the unfortunate chaos in the National Assembly debates, meetings which we attend occasionallyparliament 6 only from a business viewpoint – usually budget issues, the evident atmosphere of dissonance between Cabinet and Treasury is clearly affecting and hindering the parliamentary oversight role and translating itself down to the parliamentary working portfolio committees.

A poor relationship with Treasury badly affects the “engine room” of Parliament and makes a mockery of financial control.

We can only attend, make précis on what is said and report without opinion but we can say, quite honestly in our editorial, that currently we are not impressed by the seemingly cowed body language of the public service on certain issues. Witness the decisions on the output of the SABC and although we do not report on this as it bears no business brief, it somehow manifests a Cabinet gone wrong.

We shall continue to be watchful, particularly in the area of new legislation that affects business and declared changes in government policy.

Previous articles on category subject
Parliament under siege – ParlyReportSA
Shedding light on Eskom – ParlyReportSA
PRASA gets its rail commuter plan started – ParlyReport

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Parliament: National Assembly traffic jam

editorial…….

Massive public service vs National Assembly…..

During the last few weeks, the sheer volume of meetings in the National Assembly of Parliament to consider eachnational assembly members government departmental budget vote and each of the departmental five-year strategic plans has been overwhelming. Little of legislative consequence emerges during such a period each year, other than the tabling of technocrat Bills rather than important policy making legislation.

Sadly to say, not too much attention is paid by the media to any of these meetings. Big plans, impressive targets, promises to overhaul this, that and the other. Most working journalists of experience have seen it all before and mostly they try to get statements on issues from either the Minister or Deputy Minister beforehand.

Time is of the essence for all. But why is this period of the parliamentary diary so extraordinarily busy?

Traffic jam in Parliament

There is unfortunately a simple answer. With too many people trying to do too much in limited government hours, the resulting traffic jam results from the fact that South Africa has probably one of the largest government structures per head of population in the world, if not the largest. If it was one of the best, as far as delivery was concerned, probably this might be acceptable but sadly it isn’t and most, both locally and internationally, know it.

unionbldgsIn the fight that has now started to prune costs, moving Parliament from Cape Town to Pretoria has been suggested on the basis that this might save considerable airfare costs, time spent sitting in aircraft and train seats when the country needs one’s administrative time in the office and pointless time spent on hotel accommodation honing up on the next day’s parliamentary presentation.

However, all of this is only a manifestation of the real problem and it does not answer the question of why Parliament is so busy at this time of year.

Odious comparisons

Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan is obviously in an extremely embarrassing position. He must realize himself that the Cabinet to which he belongs is arguably one the largest in the world evidenced by the fact that whilst there are thirty-five very highly paid ministers in the South African Cabinet, the USA has a “cabinet” of sixteen. China pushes it a bit with twenty-five and India manages one of the biggest populations in the world with twenty-three.

It all becomes slightly ludicrous when an additional thirty-seven Deputy Ministers are weighed in to Team South Africa.

Wrong ratio

Down the line and aside from the cost of running all these ministries, the thirty-five departments belonging toparliament mandela statue these Ministers, accompanied by some seventeen of the larger SOEs, must all report to a totally disproportionate number of MPs in Parliament, both in the portfolio committees in the National Assembly and the select committees in the NCOP.

Hence the parliamentary traffic jam at this time of year. All this at the cost of quality oversight (the job of Parliament) and the slowing down of urgently needed legislation. Meanwhile, the number of MPs is governed by the Constitution. The number of cabinet ministers and departments (and consequently the ballooning public service) is governed by the President.

The answer to the parliamentary traffic jam problem and the imperilled and much-needed cost saving exercise in terms of the Budget is therefore really a complete no-brainer.
Previous articles on category subject
The big SA cabinet crunch – ParlyReportSA
Special cabinet statement might correct damage to SA – ParlyReportSA

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Parliament, ConCourt and Business

...editorial…

Parliament wins with ConCourt judgement…

Political comment on recent and fluid events involving Parliament and ConCourt are beyond the brief of ParlyReportConcourt other than perhaps the effect on Parliament as an institution capable of assisting business and industry. Nevertheless, these following words rang out from eleven of our judicial elders from the precincts of the highest court in the land when making their recent unanimous judgement…….

“Certain values in the Constitution have been designated as foundational to our democracy. This in turn means that as pillar-stones of this democracy, they must be observed scrupulously. If these values are not observed and their precepts not carried out conscientiously, we have a recipe for a constitutional crisis of great magnitude. In a State predicated on a desire to maintain the rule of law, it is imperative that one and all should be driven by a moral obligation to ensure the continued survival of our democracy.”

Parliament drawn in

national assemblyGiven those precepts and the fact the highest court in our land took it upon itself to chastise the Speaker of House, ANC’s Baleka Mbete, and the workings of the National Assembly in that there was a lack of respect by the Secretary for Parliament for the Public Protector’s report on the Nkandla issue.The judgement spoke volumes on the lack of Cabinet’s understanding of the principle of separation of powers and focused on its disrespect for Parliament.

But ParlyReport rarely attends the National Assembly (NA) since that it is a place where a politicized debate takes place and the NA merely “dots the i’s” on legislation and registers its vote – legislation that has already been worked on by the parliamentary portfolio and select committees, i.e. the engine room of Parliament.

Most of this “engine room” process has only been slightly compromised by the ConCourt judgement.

ParlyReport’s mandate also is to watch and observe government departments as they spell out their targets, policies and decision-making on major issues affecting business and industry as they report to their relevant committees in terms of oversight. Some of these committee debates are intelligent contributions in the national interest, others less so. Here the system with government departments reporting to Parliament is even less compromised by the ConCourt judgement.

Political debate

The National Assembly, however, is where the political, ideological and debate on party lines takesEFF 2 place, assumedly in a democratic manner but sadly turned into a circus quite often by the EFF. However, one should remember that the judgement of ConCourt was as a result of a decision on the matter brought by the very same Economic Freedom Fighters vs Speaker of the National Assembly and Others and Democratic Alliance vs Speaker of the National Assembly and Others.

In other words, some of the people have spoken but not all of the people. At National Assembly level the ANC closed ranks on the impeachment motion as the nation knows and which was their democratic right whatever the Opposition members might have thought and said. The sight of the Speaker being told to stand down and for the Deputy Speaker take over was sad to see but for the rest, it was democracy in process.

Throughout, the final debate, the level of insults was high but this could be expected on an impeachment motion but Parliamentary procedure was observed by all; the bells rang for ajournment and consideration; the votes counted; the results confirmed on the motion to impeach and all other outstanding motions called for, before closing.

speaker UKIt was just noisier than PMQ in the British Houses of Parliament, that’s all.

In the end it may be said that the Constitution was the winner. The Parliamentary process was indeed observed after ConCourt had noted that the subject matter of the charges had resulted an abuse of Parliament in a number of ways. Now the political process takes over and however dirty it may seem at times in National Assembly debate, this is indeed democracy.

Where it goes wrong

It is unfortunate that what was not foreseen by the authors of an otherwise an excellent Constitution (or perhaps foreseen but could not be avoided) is the fact that South African MPs get their jobs and receive their pensions, perks and housing on a party list system which is very much adjustable, we have learnt, not only by parliamentary performance and hearing the voice of the Party whip but by other elements outside of Parliament.

In the case of the ANC Alliance, who are the majority by far in both Houses, obviously this leads tolithuli house patronage by those who run the party list at Luthuli House. It is a fact which cannot be avoided. One could say the same for the DA, the EFF and any smaller party that patronage must apply when MPs are not answerable, as is the case in South Africa, to a particular constituency of citizens.

In the case of South Africa, this leaves national policy and leadership very much in the hands of Luthuli House, particularly because Jacob Zuma is not only President of the country but, as is ANC practice, he is also the elected leader of the ANC. It was at this point the system failed and but not because of parliamentary failure.

Puppet on a string

What ConCourt found therefore was not only that President Zuma was guilty of certain charges and had to take remedial action but there had been a determined ANC attempt, with considerable success, to run the National Assembly from Luthuli House. It was on the Nkandla issue that ANC MP and party whip, Stone Sizani, probably realized that things had gone too far and that he was probably implicated.

Mbete,Baleka sworninThe eleven judges unanimously singled out the current incumbent of the position of Speaker of the House, Baleka Mbete, as also being tangled in the web of patronage. She has denied this but has conceded the “matter could have been better handled”. In fact, later she handled matters a lot worse in the initial moments of the motion on impeachment even agreed to by the ANC who obviously saw that she should have recused herself.

Outside the ring – a little

But as far as business and industry is concerned, our institutions are a little more insulated from such shenanigans.

Whilst all committees are indeed run by ANC Alliance chairpersons (the Standing Committee on Finance was originally by tradition chaired by the majority opposition party but now changed by the ANC) public hearings on legislation are encouraged. The public may attend any meeting government oversight hearings, which ParlyReport does – as well as members of the media, and all members of the public can attend any meeting with the exception of the Security and Intelligence Committee debates.

Good, healthy debate

In our ParlyReport this fortnight, we report on the very sensible suggestions of the Bankingbasa logo 2 Association of South Africa (BASA) made to the Standing Committee on Finance on the Financial Intelligence Centre Bill, tabled by the Minister of Finance. These suggestions were not only heard but acted upon.

In fact, BASA with other financial institutions were invited to subsequent debates under committee Chairperson Yunus Carrim (SACP) and with National Treasury, under the guidance of Ismail Momoniat, a Bill was crafted that was much more acceptable to all.

In some cases, changes called for were justified successfully by Treasury not to be in the national interest in terms of the international call for compliance against money laundering but in other cases calls for less red tape and overwhelming paper work heeded and requests for better definitions acknowledged. For example, the list of “prominent persons”, i.e. those who might be involved in “suspicious transactions”, is to be compiled by Treasury itself and not left to the intuition of financial institutions and the private sector, all suggested by BASA and other financial institutions and bodies.

Separation of powers still there

In conclusion then, it will take the continued support of business with submissions and voicing opinion at hearings at committee level to keep the playing fields level and to point out what is best for South Africa’s economic interests by influencing debate at this level. Business has rarely expressed its voice in the National Assembly since this is not the forum for such unless a summons to appear is made.

parliament 6As for the future of the National Assembly itself there is very little anybody can do until the majority party gets its moral compass adjusted in terms of its relationship with this important component of Parliament, the issues ahead being purely political ones.

The Constitution, Parliament and the Public Protector’s office have survived and the ordinary democratic process of citizen politics now holds sway, hence the current issue ahead of business and industry being described by Standard and Poor as “political noise”.

 

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Parliament rattled by Sizani departure

Closed ranks on Sizani resignation…..

As South Africa struggles with the backlash of having had three finance ministers rotated in four days and
Stone-Sizani-XXX-news echoes around the parliamentary precinct that the Chief Whip of the ANC has resigned, there is a palpable feeling amongst MPs that all is not well within the governing party. The resignation of Hon Stone Sizani has come at a bad time.

Also, the legislation that is zeroed in at Parliament at the moment clearly indicates that President Zuma cares much about the rural vote and knows full well that in the months before the municipal elections that this is the power base that must be focused upon politically. His recent statement that land reform will be backdated to the 1800s manifests this view.

Team spirit

But then much of the political rhetoric at the moment is typical of a pre-election period. This has unfortunately arisen at a time that the country is on a knife’s edge in terms of both financial ratings and a possible increase in interest rates.

cropped-sa-parliament-2.jpgThe dilemma being experienced in parliamentary meetings at the moment is how to turn the ever apparent failure of government departments to meet their targets and constant reminders that projects have not even arrived at tender stage into the positive spin called for by business heads to kick start team spirit and overcome the country’s difficulties by creating more jobs.

The fact is that the parliamentary process calls for oversight of government activities and criticism is an essential part of any debate. It therefore becomes difficult to walk the fine line between exposing obvious failure and unwarranted expenditure at a time when the country needs only good news.

Good news

Maybe, it would be good then to report, as we hereby do, that the meeting between business heads and President Zuma has produced a positive reaction amongst most parliamentarians, except of course the EFF and extreme Left. It has produced the re-emergence of the MPRDA Bill, sadly without the scrapping of the Private Security Industry Bill. It has seen some excellent plans emerging in the world of SOEs and public utilities.

It has also seen the re-emergence of positive statements of progress in transport, roads and the positive fact that Eskom has reported to Parliament that it feels it can make it without load shedding at the tariff figure fixed by Nersa. Also the rush to spend enormous figures on nuclear power has been slowed down.

Certainly it is good to see at most meetings reference made to the saving of unnecessary expenditure and an acceptance by most in Parliament that things cannot go on as they were.

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Second fiasco before Zuma’s SONA address…

Fools go where angels fear to tread…SONA..

The theatrics before the SONA address in front of the world by Julius Malema of EFF, the partyHouses_of_Parliament_(Cape_Town) which objects to the Expropriation Bill on the basis that no compensation should be paid at all for land expropriated, has once again demeaned South Africa.

As if this poor nation had not suffered enough already from the giddy behaviour of the government towards foreigners over visas, land ownership, AGOA, intellectual copyrights and international agreements, the EFF has again sent to them the message that the country might well be ungovernable.

Core issues

ZumaWhy President Zuma should have fired Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and replaced him with Minister David van Rooyen is not of the slightest interest to South Africa going forward. The fact is he did and the result is that Minister Pravin Gordhan has his finger in the dyke. To know what was in the mind of President Zuma when he pronounced this change is to go down a very dark road and serves no parliamentary purpose at all, other than curiosity.

It appeared that the EFF really got it wrong this time when trying to disrupt Parliamentary procedure before SONA and the Speaker of House didn’t do much better either. In any case, the EFF was mysteriously upstaged by Patrickpatrick lekota Lekota and COPE walking out and an hour of the nation’s time lost, together with a good deal of national credibility.

In fact, it was no better than a performance under the Boswell Wilkie big top, our nation’s famous circus which sadly had its last performance in December 2015, but at least its traditions have been preserved.

Stop the side shows

WYSIWYG or “what you see is what you get” is how things work in parliamentary portfolio committees and before us we see Minister Pravin Gordhan at the pump head because of ANC malfunctions and because of an attempt to reign in the President before his cabinet ministers do any more harm to the economy.

So, in parliamentary terms, it is important that all get back to normal issues of whether or not business and industry agrees with the legislation tabled before Parliament; to continue to “get voices heard” and to determine whether government policy, in terms of mining, manufacturing, finance and banking, is giving the country the breaks it needs to score at the try line.

That is what Parliament is really about but dealing with the EFF is much like dealing with a family hooligan who hasEFF SONA just been given a new motor bicycle.

Fitch, Moodys, Standard & Poor

Such matters as firepools, the upgrading of chicken runs and the influence of various moneyed persons are of great interest to Malema, the EFF and gossip columns. However, the main issues involve the loss of billions of rands being misspent; obdurate government inaction coupled with incompetence; and whether South Africa can restore its economic image, reduce its debt and turn the fiscus around.

clem-sunterThe only road forward (and the only issue to march for in the streets) is for people to have jobs; jobs with skills that contribute towards economic output; jobs that increase tax input by employers making profits and jobs therefore that reduce the national deficit. That means investing in people and creating those skills. Its seems so long ago that Clem Sunther said this when describing the “High Road”.

Roll up the shirt sleeves

There are other forums to address the issues brought up by the EFF, especially matters regarding the re-incarnation of the office of Thusi Madonsela. To drag the Constitutional Court into the political arena is indeed a sad reflection of what political parties put first. As business heads have said, let’s stop this nonsense and put into action plans to save the economy.

At least President Zuma has acknowledged the superb effort by business leaders to avert the course being plotted by the present Cabinet. Creating more jobs in the public service is not the answer to job creation. Sadly, for those involved, this exercise of non-productive job creation in the public service must shrink urgently.

Now let’s see what the Budget produces and whether what President Zuma has said, after a ruler has been brought down across his knuckles, can be translated into practice.  (go to SONA article) History teaches us that leaders can emerge in times of trouble but a nation wearied of unfulfilled departmental targets and broken promises now awaits the outcome of a belt tightening budget.

previous articles in this category

http://parlyreportsa.co.za/cabinetpresidential/zuma-vs-parliament/

http://parlyreportsa.co.za/earlier-stories/state-of-the-nation/

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The big SA cabinet crunch

Editorial….

Cabinet hopes are Brown, Ramaphosa, Gordhan…..

Public Enterprises Minister, Lynne Brown, reports that she is to introduce as a cabinet draft, the Lynne BrownShareholder Management Bill as part of a plan to introduce leadership ability and some form of continuity for the state owned enterprises (SOCs) under her control.   This includes Eskom, Transnet, Denel, SA Express, Alexkor and Safcol.

We hope this is the start of something big.

The last few weeks have been an exercise in disaster, so let’s try and take a positive spin on things from a parliamentary viewpoint. Whilst troubled SAA is now an independent, falling under National Treasury and if President Zuma minds his own business, Minister Pravin Gordhan is to sort out National Treasury itself and also the troubled SARS, which he re-designed in the first place and which became such a success working with Trevor Manuel.

More problem children

Meanwhile, PetroSA is in real deep water falling, the entity falling under Central Energy Fund (CEF) reporting to Department and Energy (DOE). With Minister Joemat-Pettersson not back from COP21 or wherever, the country still faces some serious energy issues. But at least the PetroSA problem is now all in the open, with somebody obviously having to take over the reins and the mess, probably CEF itself.
Oddly enough there are people in CEF who know exactly what the problem is but once again politicians pushed experts in the wrong direction, it appears.

In addition, the Passenger Rail Association (PRASA) is very much on the slippery slope and, together with SANRAL, both present highly contentious transport issues which are now in the hands of Minister Cyril Ramaphosa to untangle. Troubling times indeed.

Public Enterprises comes to the party

lyne brown 2Now Minister Lynne Brown appears to be getting the senior management of her portfolio under control and whilst we could still have shutdowns at Eskom she says, because “machines can break down unexpectedly”, the leadership is there she says, as is the case with her Denel.
Lynne Brown recently reported that there are around 700 SOCs, an extraordinary fact, but bearing in mind the fact that South Africa is reputed to have the largest head count in public service per population count, this would appear quite possible.

On the road again

With Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa chairing an Integrated Marketing Committee, which will hopefullyramaphosa designate which entities should remain SOCs and those which should be absorbed back into their relevant departments, there appears some hope with regard to containing the ballooning public service machine which has characterised President Zuma’s presidency.

Hands off appointments

An essential element of Minister Lynne Brown’s plan is to remove the appointment to the boards of the entities under her domain away from cabinet and Ministers, including herself, to a shareholder management team that creates a leadership operational plan for all SOCs and appoints, through due process, a tightly run appointment book.

A brave proposition indeed but it does indicate that Minister Brown is her own person.

Whilst the proposals might look like state control, in fact it is a clear signal that government may have heard the message that the current system of Ministers appointing board members is not working, is open to abuse and what is worse, the consequent “jobs for the boys” system results in taxpayer’s money being thrown away through bad management, corruption and what the auditor general calls “useless and wasteful expenditure”.

On the drawing board

The Shareholder Management Bill, Minister Brown said in Johannesburg, will first need a concept paper (perhaps she means a White Paper) and such could be released after the February Cabinet Lekgotla in February, with an intention of introducing such as system by the end of 2016.

Whilst it is pretty obvious who should not be on such an appointment team, the plan begs the question of will be chosen to occupy such critical posts but it is far too early to cogitate on this one. With Ministers changing their portfolios as if it was a game of musical chairs, there is reason to congratulate Minister Brown on the statement that she herself as a Minister would be excluded from making appointments in her own SOCs.

Leadership needed

During the same address, she added that Eskom was “not out of the woods” yet and there was still not sufficient electricity to facilitate economic growth, but the leadership issue was being addressed satisfactorily with the right people being appointed. Brown said none of the entities under her control “would be approaching the National Treasury with begging bowls”.

Perhaps this is the principle being adopted behind the scenes with the SABC, which whilst not affecting business and industry other than travel costs, unlike trade and investment hurdles and industrial strategic changes, SABC is threatened by the possibility of being returned to its parent government department which at first glance appeared to be a move by President Zuma to gain control of state financed media, Mugabe style.

However, in a broad sense it seems to be Minister Brown’s idea that appointments to the top echelons running the country should be as a result of finding those qualified to do so rather than being handled by totally unqualified persons, some with solicitous intent, and others trying to retain power with dubious appointments such as having friends, in the case of the SABC, to broadcast “the truth” to specific rural audiences.

Unprincipled governance remains the one of the biggest problems facing South Africa, intrinsically coupled to (and in some cases causing} lack of growth and lack of jobs.

Croneyism

Bad appointments by Ministers and of Ministers has been the cornerstone of control by patronage, the route for corruption and the reason for sheer bad management, a practice now openly exposed but not yet controlled by any means. From a parliamentary viewpoint, let us leave it there. The rest is being said by the media but most MPs when they return to Parliament in late January 2016 will have realized that sheer stupidity can ruin their own futures and their pensions.

But if Minister Lynne Brown, in her practical and down to earth manner, can come up with the remarkable idea of Cabinet Ministers, hopefully including the Presidency as well, not interfering in who does what as far as expertise is concerned, then perhaps this can be applied to all 47 government departments and agencies.

One small step

No doubt as far as confirmation of an appointment, the Minister involved may still have to “approve” such a decision but it is worth watching the outcome of the debate on the shortly-to-be tabled Broadcasting Bill, if only to see if the appointment of inept senior appointments can be halted or reversed.

What has come out of the Eskom, PRASA and PetroSA issues is that a bad leader with no qualification or right to be in a position of leadership, or worse led by one who has supplied fraudulent qualifications, leads to frustration and anger by those with genuine skills and high academic qualifications lower down the ladder at the coalface. This is in the space of government service where technical skills are located and badly needed.

We hope Minister Lynne Brown has more of these “eureka” moments.

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Parliament under siege

NEHAWU strike chaos in Parliament…  

Editorial …Cultures under the microscope….

parliamentary committeeTwo cultures are developing in South Africa.  One is to lie to Parliament during oversight meetings, or to put it more politely telling “untruths” as was re-defined by one DA MP after being told to apologise during investigations into statements by the Department of Trade and Industry on who had leases or not in terms of the Centurion Aerospace Village issue.

The other unpleasant culture, which is also growing fast, is to ignore the separation of powers between Parliament, the Presidency and the Judiciary. Not that Parliament or the Judiciary has done anything wrong but certainly the Nkandla issue is a demonstration of where the problem might lie.

If such instances, particularly in the case of “untruths”, the media is usually quick to pick these things up and a whole horrid mess, whatever it is, comes out in the newspapers.  

As a parliamentary affairs website, we keep away mainly away from the lurid headlines but unfortunately we are witnessing more and more departments appearing before their relative portfolio committees appearing dysfunctional and without policy. This must relate directly to a Cabinet not in touch with the business of governing and government.

Eye not on the ball

Most of the Cabinet, especially No.1, seem to be travelling to conferences worldwide. The portfoliozumatravel committee on energy, for example has not met in three weeks nor is any meeting scheduled, at this stage, before Parliament closes.

However, departments controlled by Ministers and members of the SACP are indeed busy which would indicate either two factions within the Cabinet and two distinct attitudes towards the use of Parliament and the passage of legislation.

Consequently, we have ignored the two perfectly good opportunities to report on developmental issues or state policy in the transport area where failure of policy or malfeasance is represented either by poor governance or telling “untruths”.  This is where the journalists present do a good job.

Business alerts only

What went on in the SAA and PRASA presentations to portfolio committees, both reporting a litany of poor governance, lack of financial controls and dubious tender processing, probably represents everything you know already.   Quite clearly these two state entities have made a total mess of things but missing targets or who appointed their best friend to get the job is not what we are really interested in.

Sadly, it all comes down from the top and we have a feeling that the relationship between Parliament as a working tool of democracy and Cabinet will worsen as we head towards an election and attempt to please voters.

As an example, a ridiculous piece of legislation entitled the Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Bill has been withdrawn by the Cabinet and now referred by President Zuma to the Council of Traditional Leaders for the consideration first. This will result, if eventually comes before Parliament again and is bulldozed through, as being a forerunner in amending the Traditional Leaders Act Framework Bill in what appears to be a policy of establishing two systems of justice for South Africa.

Sand in the cogs

nehawuOn the second issue of Parliament not being allowed do its work, our President has said very little and certainly done nothing when a piece of land and buildings, not in Cape Town by law but in national South African territory and certainly a Key Point, was recently invaded by hooligans. Meetings have not been held for well over a week, except in certain essential cases such as Budget appropriation approval – probably, as one commentator sourly advanced, because nobody would get paid.

However, importantly, breaking up the working structure of Parliament is a completely different issue from the EFF being ejected from the National Assembly for breaking House rules.  This is a criminal issue.
In this case, a crowd waving sticks and knobkerries invaded committee rooms, singing so loudly that MPs could not think or converse with each other. The intent was clear. To break up Parliament. Most of the crowd were wearing red NEHAWU vests.

Embarrassing

All visitors, whether an official from Union Buildings, an Ambassador or a CEO from a corporate giant, have to obtain a special daily pass to get into Parliament by showing their credentials, yet none of these persons who broke into Parliament have been arrested or charged for wrongful entry. ParlyReportSA sits with many a consular representative as an observer and we hate to think what kind of reports are going back to Embassies, onwards and upwards.

It was a sad moment for the South African Parliament and even more sad that the violation neither disturbed the Presidency or invoked any retribution from the Speaker of the House. And it’s not because either party do not understand the Constitution but rather they seem not to care.

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EFF: only part of the problem

Editorial……

EFF adding to image problem…

EFF 2The sight of brawls in any Parliament around the world evokes a picture of a breakdown in society and it naturally downgrades business and investor confidence. To not comment upon the matter as parliamentary monitors would be like ignoring the last bus on a rainy night. The disruption is there and it is as large as life.

It is no good ignoring it; it has happened and further, on a number of occasions, meetings have had to be abandoned in the National Assembly.  However, it is important to add that it is not a question of the parliamentary system breaking down but being abused.

Keeping order

It is a sad moment but maybe a good thing to bring in a “parliamentary guard” to keep order so as not to have SAPS on standby for the Speaker to gain order. For example, the Vatican, which also has a separation of power ruling, has its own guard.  

In this case, however, introducing official parliamentary “bouncers” so that all parliamentarians can get a fair hearing is rather like re-introducing the cane at school so that all students get a fair education.  So be it. It seems this has to be the case

What Constitution?

Regretfully, if one looks at the bigger picture, this is not a parliamentary issue but part of a far bigger constitutional issue that wracks the country. An “extra-parliamentary” issue therefore.

Meanwhile, it has to be explained, time and time again, that it is at portfolio committee and select committee level in both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, that the real work is done – whether the outcome pleases business and industry or not.   All the committees have an ANC Alliance majority but the standard of debate is remarkably high and if something is “bulldozed” through, it quite often seems to go wrong.

Order, order, order

maceIf anybody has watched parliamentary question time, or PMQ, in the British Houses of Parliament one realizes the complete lack of value of attending such Upper House meetings for the record. It is a place of political posturing and to vote. Almost entertainment in the case of PMQ.

So it is with the National Assembly but it was interesting to watch the Mace being recovered in true parliamentary style when debate failed, something not appreciated by the 6% of MPs behaving like hooligans with no wish to follow procedure. There is hope.

parly with mace

 

 

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Editorial: Working committees

Post budget analysis…..

Now that Parliament is past budget vote speeches and promises on the future, Parliament gets back to the nitty-gritty of outstanding issues and legislation in the pipeline.

It is a busy time of year in Parliament and those more responsible MPs and many of the good chairpersons really earn their stipend.    It seems a shame at time that the debate in the National Assembly can so often border on the banal, whilst at portfolio and select committee level some really good work is done.

Lurid headlines distract

Always bearing in mind that the ANC Alliance always has the majority vote if it really wants to stamp out an idea, it can.  But listening to the many debates at portfolio committee level, not all is as it seems in the Sunday newspapers – in many committees realistic debate takes place and although ideologies will differ, the democratic idea of listening to the other’s view is exercised.    Of course, as in the UK, the party whip will eventually prevail on difficult issues.

The main issues still remain, not nuclear and sport as the headlines would proclaim, but the issues such as faced by Gordhan Pravin of influencing municipal issues and the balance between “yes” and “no” on carbon tax.   Despite the energy dominating, the payback by municipalities to Eskom was a victory totally underestimated.

EFF pantomime

Parliament still remains a serious working body, certainly the best in Africa and by all accounts way above the standards of many equivalents in developing countries worldwide.    In retrospect, whilst Speaker Mbete may have “lost her cool” in the last session, the debate in the National Assembly is now more in line and on track and certainly, at working committee level, a lot of the absurdities never occur. Agrument may be fierce at times but the rules are followed.

As we say, the debate on the “nitty gritty” is now on; mistakes are being acknowledged and a genuine attempt to get everything back on the rails seems to be pervading. Whatever the political background, it seems to be an issue of “all hands to the pump”.

Patrick McLaughlin

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Budget vote speeches: Out of touch with each other

Editorial….

DTI does flip flop on B-BBEE pointing…..

elephant and bayThere have clearly been were two big elephants in the room during budget vote speech time in the National Assembly over the last two weeks – Eskom and BEE.    Then, suddenly, with DTI reversing their decision to reduce B-BEE pointing award benefits for broad-based employment schemes – one of the elephants disappeared.  It was an amazing flip flop in government policy.

But in actual fact this represents no change, in reality – just simply the fact that the whole structure of what was proposed was seen by all as impractical, unenforceable and to industry, unacceptable.

Backstage dramas

Whether it was business and industry pressure that forced the change, the Chamber of Mines or even the trade union movement itself, after two surprising gazettes announcing reduced awards in terms of black empowerment for broad based shareholder schemes, including employee schemes so carefully Rob+Daviesworked out in the last two years, and the second gazette correcting the fact that such changes were not retrospective, what happened behind the scenes will never be known. We think it was minister Rob Davies himself who put his foot down.

In a private comment, when sympathising with the minister for having to reverse his department’s announcements so publicly, his answer was “When something goes wrong you have to put it right.”  We admire for that and told him so.

Energy issues remain at the core

As far as the first elephant in the room, the energy crisis, it remains.    Unusually, this year despite all the speeches, the amount of media briefings and portfolio committee debates, including the millions of rands spent on airfares with some forty odd departments and SOEs fielding full teams reporting, it was only the minister of energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who really tackled electricity and the issue of Eskom – all the other ministers appearing avoiding the issue like the plague, even public enterprises.

Correcting the past

What indeed was noticeable, at portfolio committee level as well, that each reporting team and each minister seemed to be more anxious to report on transformation and state ownership issues, as if some very clear dictate had been received that the ANC was not delivering on its election mandate in these areas and this was really the main priority.

Whilst lip service seems to have been paid, and then only in some instances, to the need for foreign investment and issues of the country’s rating image, the lacklustre address by the minister of trade and industry gave only more credence to the belief that redress for past injustices was the only big elephant in their lives and in Union Buildings.

Transformation not economics at forefront

In the committees, where all departments have been reporting on progress towards annual targets, this now being the last quarter, the most important slide in any PowerPoint presentation (following clarity on the audit process) was always the racial makeup of the department concerned in terms of reaching transformation targets and what race ratios currently existed. The theme was obvious.

We have listened to many thousands of words spoken over the month and more is yet to come as we write, but it is all too evident that there is a massive discord between business and industry and President Zuma’s cabinet on priorities.

Final word

Trade and industry minister, Rob Davies, warned parliamentarians in his budget vote speech, when mentioning BEE matters , that members should  be aware that the President had indicated that the central task was to bring about radical economic transformation.      Which really said it all.

Posted in BEE, cabinet, Cabinet,Presidential, earlier editorials, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Shedding light on Eskom

Editorial……  week ending 30 April 2015

Breaking up old empires……

Lynne BrownOne parliamentary meeting we did attend with anticipation in the last few days but have not reported to our clients , despite the media attention, was the appearance of minister of public enterprise Lynne Brown with her public enterprises team for the scheduled presentation of the department’s strategic 5-year and annual performance plan to the public enterprises portfolio committee.  A non-event if ever there was one.

Minister Brown is a hard working lady and managed to fit this in out of respect for Parliament.

Unfortunately, she had absolutely nothing to add to what has been said in the media, adding yet once again that depressing qualification made in every government statement that  “loading shedding will continue for the next two years in order to avoid a total blackout”.

Doors need opening

One comment she did make was worth noting, however,  She said on the Eskom issue, “I have a eskom logoresponsibility as shareholder representative but cannot interfere from a political level in the management and operations of the SOCs.   However, if matters go wrong, I have oversight responsibility.” 

In our humble view, oversight responsibility is not enough if action is called for, especially if every minister has to sign a performance agreement to deliver on his or her appointment.  She also bemoaned the fact that, as we write, that no definitive “war room” statement has been made to tell the country what is going on.

Going some…

The minister commented during the meeting, almost as an aside, that Eskom is and always had been the same animal for some 50 years now, employing at the moment some 42,000 people. Change had to come, she said.

We spot legislation in the making, in the same way that minister Gordhan Pravin must push his way into local government and make changes.  Management talent for a three tier government and six massive state owned utilities is running short.

Other articles in this category or as background
Energy gets war room status – ParlyReportSA
Eskom goes to the brink with energy – ParlyReportSA

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Eskom goes to the brink with energy

Editorial…..

What war room?….

black bulbFor those who have been associated with a war, they will know that a war room is a pretty busy place. However, one gets the impression that the South African war room, mandated to sort out Eskom and energy planning, has no red telephone and little understanding of working overtime in a time of crisis.

Spokesperson, Mac Maharaj or his  replacement, has certainly issued no statements headed with such a title, the President being busy visiting Egypt, Algeria and Angola with the deputy president calling in on the Kingdom of Lesotho.  President Mugabe has come and gone, more presidential visits are planned…… and the World Bank report on South Africa has been published.

Teetering on the edge

Meanwhile, the Eskom issue is still boiling over, the question of the fourth round of IPP tenders and more to come has been announced by the minister of energy but little evidence exists that a war room exists, let alone a high powered advisory council to advise the war room.  Parliament was, of course, on Easter recess which added to the uncanny political silence on urgent matters, particularly the energy issue, although the story at Medupi with a return to work and the appointment of a new CEO at Eskom seems  calming.

At last public servants are re-appearing from extended Easter holidays but the so-called war room gives the impression of having bunkered down. Hopefully the report in the coming weeks on Eskom, as South Africa tackles some of the other serious matters facing the country, will not only show with what went wrong but what the war room intends to do about it.

Perhaps a picture of the war room sitting and debating might actually help us believe there is one.

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