Tag Archive | Baleka Mbete

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, 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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New SA cabinet

Who for cabinet?…

NAAfter a week of intense speculation, with the swearing in of Members of Parliament, the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and the re-election of Jacob Zuma as President, followed by a gala inauguration process at Union Buildings, the political and financial world held its breath until the moment arose when the composition of the cabinet was announced over the weekend.

Also in the week previous, the first seating of the National Assembly marked noticeable changes in the hierarchy of the new governing alliance party. Strategic seating arrangements displayed the fact that Cyril Ramaphosa took the conspicuous seat allocated for the Deputy President.  In this sense, the mould was cast for a new period in South Africa’s political history at that point.

Ramphosa ZumaSince his defeat by Thabo Mbeki for status in the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa, chairman of the Student Christian Movement, former secretary-general of the ANC and first secretary National Union of Mineworkers, was deeply involved in the negotiations that led to Nelson Mandela’s release. His involvement with South Africa’s political development is extensive.  He will now bring to cabinet decisions his twenty years of business experience gained whilst remaining as a political heavyweight in waiting.

Old faces

When the seating in Parliament took place, it appeared at the time that the incumbent minister of trade and industry seemed to haveRob+Davies maintained his influence within the ANC caucus and so it was to be.

tito mboweniWith the status-quo being to some extent maintained, one would therefore not expect any major changes or shifts in terms of policy, regulations and government position of matters related to business, the economy and international relations. The “behind the scenes” withdrawal of Tito Mboweni from parliamentary lists was significant since it had been clearly rumoured that he was tipped for the position of finance minister.

If the election of Baleka Mbete as Speaker and the massive influx of ANC cadres from Luthuli House to the National Assembly areMbete,Baleka swornin anything to go by, we can expect a more controlled environment in Parliament, particularly in the light of a reduced majority and the presence of the EEF.   Such tighter control will be evidenced in the nominations of chairpersons to the various Portfolio Committees.

Also in the past week, National Council of Provinces held its first seating. Unlike the National Assembly, 80% of the members of the NCOP are new to the House. Although this House does not particularly influence national, international and economic trends, one might expect significant changes in terms of committee positions on important issues.

Thandi Modise, former premier of the North West was elected chairperson of the NCOP and who is noted for her open-mindedness and approachability.

 The final choice

neneFinally, in a major cabinet reshuffle, President Zuma, announced his choice of ministers. To the surprise of most. he promoted deputy finance minister Nhlanhla Nene to finance minister, replacing minister Pravin Gordhan. Whether minister Nene was groomed for the position or minister Gordhan, who goes to governance and traditional affairs, is needed to sort out the finances and delivery disciplines in local government, remains to be seen. The appointments are nevertheless surprising.

The size of the cabinet apparently is not an issue with either the President or the ANC Alliance.    Clearly, the issues wracking the allianceanclogo are as important as economic issues and time will tell if the appointments are a consolidation of power or a compromise.

President Zuma also confirmed businessman Cyril Ramaphosa as his Deputy President. Considering Ramaphosa’s background and position, his appointment is expected to be welcomed by investors and the private sector.   As we speculated, Rob Davies is to maintain his position as minister of trade and industry, providing some continuity for the business world despite the fact that sparks never seem to fly in this area. However, DTI can be said to have had some success.

Mining and police

Mining minister, Susan Shabangu, who had been criticised for her handling of the strike in the platinum mines now in its fifth month, wasNgoako Ramatlhodi replaced by Ngoako Ramatlhodi, a former deputy minister in the prison service. Minister Shabangu goes to the new ministry of women, part of the Presidency.

radebeThe National Planning Commission and the ministry of performance, monitoring and evaluation have been merged and will be headed by former Justice Minister, Jeff Radebe, thus becoming part of the triad with the President and Deputy President. The total shake up of the security cluster, mining and energy portfolios could be set to have an significant impact on the five month strike in the platinum belt.

Left of centre

Mzwandile Masina has been appointed deputy minister of trade and industry. If there are to be “radical changes”, as President Zuma Mzwandile Masinaanticipated, this is where changes in B-BBEE might occur. Masina was formerly the national convenor of the ANC Youth League and was recently at the centre of a controversy when referring to NUMSA General Secretary, Irvin Jim, he used bad language.

Should Masina have any hold on policy and regulation, one could witness a significant shift in policy to the left, bearing in mind minister Rob Davies is a member of the SACP.

Electric shock

tina-joemattThe new minister of energy, Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson, emerging from her fisheries complications and other difficult personal issues under investigation, will have her work cut out to get a grip on the energy picture and will have to rely, hopefully, on the many experts in the department of energy. This is before tackling the complicated issues facing the country in such areas as Eskom sustainability, the petroleum and fuels strategy and ISMO.

The new deputy minister of finance is Mcebisi Jonas, former MEC for economic development and environmental affairs of the Eastern Cape provincial government during which time it could be said that the Eastern Cape did not benefit from his term of office.
This is a disappointing appointment.

Madala Masusku, former Mpumalanga MEC for finance, is another provincial MEC who has made cabinet as deputy minister of economic development in a key position without too much experience.

Mr Policeman

Nkosinathi-NhlekoChief whip of the ANC, Nkosinathi Nhleko, previously deputy minister of labour, seems to have been rewarded for caucusing legislation through at the last minute in Parliament at the close of the fourth Parliament and becomes minister of police, whilst incumbent Nathi Mthethwa slips down to minister Paul Matashile’s position, Pallo Jordan’s old post, at arts and culture, Matashile disappearing from the hierarchy it appears, as did Jordan as well.

Also disappearing is Marthinus van Schalkwyk, whose ministry of tourism goes to Derek Hanekom, moving from the ministry of sciencehanekom and technology.

oliphantOn the labour front, experienced Mildred Oliphant stays where she is and continues to implement the four new labour laws thus providing some sort of continuity.

With so many changes, continuity in the short term is the issue.

Start up time

There is clearly going to be a time gap with so many shuffles and structural changes and it might be months before the whole impetus of the fifth government of South Africa gains traction to deal with the economic and delivery problems facing South Africa.

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