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Parliamentary start to 2018 will be stormy

….Cabinet changes on the way

…. editorial...After having endured so many of President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet reshuffles, most of them in his own interests, it is painful to think that in all probability there is still one more shuffle to go. The focus for business and industry now falls upon the parliamentary portfolios of public enterprises, energy, mineral resources, communications, state welfare, land reform and trade and industry.

In past shuffles, the regular passing of the hat has allowed minister after minister to side-step the truth and report to Parliament on a “it wasn’t me” basis.  It has been the bane of Zuma’s presidency and in many cases the cover up for wholesale corruption and the ineptitude of some of those anointed.

When the music stops…

So, it is with trepidation that Parliament awaits another round of new ministerial faces which will probably coincide with a new round of appointments of chairperson of committees, let alone some new faces in the benches. This is all at a time when the economy sits at tipping point and President Zuma still retains powers to appoint cabinet ministers but is unlikely to against the wishes of the new ANC president, Cyril Ramaphosa.

But everything is changing on a day to day basis.   On the opening of Parliament the immediate business to be dealt with is the status of the current Presidency.  Parliamentary Speaker of the House, Baleka Mbete, has been instructed by the judiciary to fulfill her constitutional mandate to establish consequences for President Zuma on the Nkandla affair in terms of an action brought by the EFF.  But even whether the current President will make it to Parliament remains in doubt.

Baleka Mbete remains therefore the person to watch in coming weeks as much as Cyril Ramaphosa

Avoiding the crunch

In all likelihood Deputy President and now President of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa, and his party executive, the NEC, will avoid the road to impeachment at all costs.  But one never knows with President Zuma.  For example, the Higher Education announcement came like a bolt of the blue from the Presidency, a callous call made by Zuma leading to a departmental debacle and a financial conundrum for the Minister of Finance.

Once again, the parliamentary telephone directory will be at the mercy of ever-changing power battles within the governing party and which somehow represents the country-wide breakdown in communications across of whole section of the governance and political spectrum.  This sadly occurs every time cabinet portfolios get switched around en bloc.

Musical chairs….

This waiting period for new faces is similar to the usual vacuum before an election. In this case, however, the small but important difference is that the ordinary Joe has no say in outcome. In an election, one sees a manifesto of beliefs, values, policies and an appeal to the electorate.  In this case it is a choice between more of the same, less of the same, or if unity wins, how many compromises there will be and how many appointments are determined by political expediency.

To put it simply, we shall learn soon who will be picking up each of the cards in the ministerial cabinet pack and who will be contributing to the promotion of nearly fifty pieces of legislation in Parliament awaiting attention.

Wasteful expenditure

The current power battle within the ANC will tell us, for example, who will be finalising a stalled and messed up Minerals and Petroleum Resources Amendment Bill; a confused Border Management Authority Bill; a Land Reform Programme from Rural Affairs that has got muddled up with an Expropriation Bill from Public Works; a Communications Bill that has totally shaken the confidence of its industry sector and a Management Shareholding Bill for SOEs that is now tainted with violations of the Public Finance Management Act (PMFA).

Policy matters are also confused.  Moves towards land reform without compensation; 5-year  free higher education plans; nuclear “expansion”, oil and gas dreams and state health schemes have all been expounded upon by President Zuma’s previous allies when trying to gain the higher ground in policy making. The picture is as confused for Cabinet as much as Parliament and the public.

Spiral of outrage

Meanwhile, in another Parliament on 6 December, Lord Peter Hain, when introducing a UK Money Laundering  Amendment Bill, said to the British House of Lords, “My Lords, in recent weeks I have again been stunned by the systemic transnational financial crime network facilitated by an Indian-South African family the Gupta’s and the presidential Zuma family.”

This watershed statement was not  missed by the international banking world and which has brought the country to the point where it was learnt that the FBI are around the corner and the UK’s Serious Fraud Unit are also on the trail.

2017  was also a year in which civil society responded from the public platform, joining OUTA and Corruption Watch and others in their lonely battle to expose the truth.   AmaBhungane started the ball rolling and with the Gupta emails and Jacques Pauw’s The President’s Keepers adding momentum, all learnt during the rocky road of last year that Parliament is a situation as much as an institution. There is constant movement. Every day is different.

Down to work

2018 sees the genie out of the lamp  but Parliament will initially remain the battleground, the courts having emphasised the separation of powers and scolding Parliament and the Speaker for not doing their jobs.

As shadow minister of public enterprises, Natasha Mazzone (DA), amusingly shouted to state capture adherents during the Eskom Inquiry, it is now time in the new parliamentary session for those either in default of parliamentary rules or who challenge the norms of the PMFA  to “bring it on.”

 

Previous editorial http://parlyreportsa.co.za/earlier-editorials/cabinet-paralyisis-times-need/

 

 

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