Tag Archive | Themba Godi

Parliament goes into winter recess

….Flat battery problems

…Parliament, unexpectedly, has become the stage for enquiries into corruption; poor governance; downright theft and for having to call to account a whole clutch of government heads for achieving absolutely nothing on service delivery, the last issue now emerging as a major headache for MPs on the ANC benches for the 2019 elections.

It’s all a bit like pushing a car to make it start.

The Parliament we know and understand has somewhat changed in nature. An overhaul of who does what is needed.  It now needs a stable, successful and vocal Speaker of the House who appears more conscious of the need for change, not only with national government issues but not so divorced from provincial and local needs across at the NCOP, where most of issues of the day seem to be occurring.

Pyramids that work

Parliament is clearly at a stage where good leaders with better communication skills are needed.  Talk is amongst the economics fraternity to consider some sort of constitutional change whereby the message and the money from the top to travels down correctly through the tiers of government below; monitored on how policy on service delivery is acted upon; subsequently audited for its correct application and with report backs on achievements provided in terms of the money’s original purpose. 

An example would be Eskom.  Despite its many problems, as a self-contained entity it is always way ahead in numbers in creating new electricity connections in far flung rural areas, more so than municipalities and larger towns nearer to their communities.  However, when local governments and entities are asked to pay their Eskom bill, the money allocated from the consumer either has been used for something else, or the debt is paid out of money allocated by national government for a service delivery item, say, housing. 

The few

For some reason few Ministers and parliamentarians stand out as good administrators, leaving straight-talking persons such as Minister Pravin Gordhan, Bantu Holomisa of the UDM, Themba Godi on the Standing Committee of Public Accounts, Yunus Carrim of the ANC and Chair of the Finance Standing Committee and Joanna Fubbs on the Portfolio Committee of Trade and Industry as lone voices of reason.

Clearly the country should be training more young Pravin Gordhans who are just as good on spending the money as the Minister was on collecting it and allocating it.

Whilst much of the debate in the National Assembly, which we do not report on because of its political nature, is deteriorating Portfolio Committee work, which we do attend since this is the “engine room” of Parliament, is belatedly being led in many instances by unsteady hands at the helm where “the new dawn” is not being reflected or respected.  

Biding time

Something must happen, since this mixture of indecision, bickering and with angry voters at the door is explosive.  Nobody, it seems, is coming on strong as to what the new direction should be.  Some analysts say that the new President is not biting the bullet. Then one hears in parliamentary corridors that ANC infighting remains intense and the baton remains not properly handed over to the new team.

State salary and wage allocations are sitting at R587 billion, representing some 38% of the annual budget and therefore the largest public service in Africa employing over 2 million people.    However, ANC MPs are struggling to come to terms with the fact that 47 ministers and deputy ministers who lead this massive machine are just not achieving what they say they are setting out to do.

Nothing happening

Whilst the democratic process in theory seems to be working better in Parliament, getting things done seems rather like the task the salmon has when swimming upstream. It’s all hard work.  The parliamentary committee “to do” list is building up, with deadlines on international agreements not being met, matters being continually referred to courts and MPs sitting on their cell phones catching up on the infighting within their own parties.

The price for realignment of committee tasks and the calling of President Zuma’s acolytes to answer for past incoherent and dubious decisions are taking up hours of parliamentary time in enquiries and investigative meetings.   If this were to be costed out on a business basis, it would amount to millions of rands.  The shadow of Zuma, still a force within the ANC, hangs over many parliamentary meetings like a storm cloud.

Not working

However, in our view, being voiced at last in Parliament is probably the real reason for getting nowhere. It’s not just a Zuma problem. It has much to do with the three-tiered government structure that we live by that has become dysfunctional.

National Government, who receive tax payer’s money and allocate it on a policy basis to all nine Provincial Governments, are just not talking to each other properly.  The Minister of Co-operative Governance, put there to co-ordinate by Jacob Zuma, was none other than Des van Rooyen but President Ramaphosa has now appointed Minister Zweli Mkhize to the post wgich may assist.

 Bad showing

In the meanwhile, the outcome of a time-consuming parliamentary process of studying what went wrong in the last ten years, who stole what, who is to blame and who the crooks are, is seriously detracting from the main task of Parliament, that of debate on new legislation and coherent oversight on government departmental performances.

Now, with Parliament about to close for its winter recess, looking back on Cyril Ramaphosa’s first parliamentary session, because of this internal political bickering we have to say this session ended in an atmosphere of overwhelming disappointment.                                                             

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Parliament set for tough questioning

Editorial…

…..Busy session to get some answers

….  In the absence of any move by the National Prosecuting Authority, particularly the somnambulant National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams whose department seems confused as to whether 100,000 leaked Gupta e-mails constitute prima facie evidence of fraud or not, it falls to a parliamentary committee in Cape Town once again to be the first official venue for any debate of consequence on the State/Gupta corruption scandals.

In one of the first meetings of the recently re-opened Parliament, the Public Enterprises Portfolio Committee is to receive a report back from legal experts on the setting up of the Eskom enquiry.

Party vs the Church

Oddly enough, it was in also Cape Town, at St George’s Cathedral, in early June, where the fight first began.    Later, the venue was room 249 in the National Assembly, where the Public Enterprises Portfolio Committee was addressed by Bishop of the South African Council of Churches (SACC). He had then just released a report on corruption by the SACC Unburdening Panel.

It fell to the Bishop the first shot and there was a sobering moment of silence in parliamentary room 249 when he finished talking. It felt like a small moment in South African history.  What came after that seemed like a little bit of a parliamentary let-down in the following weeks but it is important that what the Bishop had to say is further reported for the record.

Take that

Bishop Mpumlwana reminded all present, and particularly parliamentarians who claimed that the Church should not be “fiddling in politics”, that the same politicians had repeated the phrase, “So help me God” when taking office.

He said that the Church had no intention of ignoring the evil that was being perpetrated on the people of South Africa and asked all to note that the Constitution ended, “May God bless South Africa.”

He also said that systematic looting of resources had created a crisis for South Africans, particularly the poor. He called upon all parliamentarians to look to their consciences and assist with “the righteous cause of tracking down all those involved” in what was now an obvious state capture plan hatched during President Zuma’s watch in which the President himself, he said, was involved.

Cry, the beloved country

In a particularly moving address, he reminded all that SACC had come out in vocal support of the ANC during the apartheid years when President PW Botha was in power.   Now was the time to speak up again on the unbridled abuse of power by an ANC Cabinet and a President “who had lost his way on moral issues.”

The Church, he said, must intervene and as a result of the SACC “unburdening” process which had been conducted some months ago, he now knew that “mafia-style control” was being exercised by a political elite in Eskom, Transnet, Denel, and other government agencies.

Ignored

An attempt was in process to gain control over public funds destined particularly regarding rail, arms and nuclear projects, the last being a totally unnecessary burden placed upon the country, he said.    He concluded with an appeal to parliamentarians present to expose the crimes committed and “restore the dream that had built a rainbow nation admired the world over.”

It was gratifying to hear in following days that the Public Enterprises committee, under chairperson Zukiswa Rantho, had instituted an enquiry into Eskom’s accounts (and also Transnet and Denel it turned out) with legal opinion to be discussed in the in the next session of Parliament.

That time has now arrived and one hopes that a lot of explanations will emerge and a lot more untruths discovered in meetings with the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) and its apparently confused but certainly compromised leader responsible, Minister, Lynne Brown.

Looking ahead

Parliament has now a busy schedule in August to catch up on lost time with delays incurred by staging a “secret ballot” on the no-confidence in President Zuma vote.

One issue will involve the passage of the contentious Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill, scheduled for a meeting with the Select Committee again towards the end of August; the Expropriation Bill; and the implementation of all Twin Peaks regulations – including those for the Financial Intelligence Centre to operate in terms of the “money-laundering” changes.

This last-named body is quoted as having handed over some 7,000 cases of suspicious money movements to SAPS/Hawks and Themba Godi, chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), has made the public comment that any parliamentary finance joint meetings must see such matters on oversight resolved in the short term, preferably immediately.

Energy up and down

Minister of Energy, Mmamaloko Kubayi, was to be informing her Portfolio Committee on the can of worms opened with her suspension of the board the Central Energy Fund stated by her as being in connection with the suspicious sale of South Africa’s oil reserves held by the Strategic Fuel Fund.

Past Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, seems to have possibly lied earlier to Parliament over the sale of these assets and she, in her subsequent silence, appears to be joining what is now a whole roomful of past ministers and director generals involved in the tangled web of deceit and manipulation at the edge of business and commerce  – some of it linked to Gupta e-mails, some just motivated by plain criminal greed.

But all Energy Portfolio Committee meetings on any subject have now been abruptly halted in the light of matters involving the possible suspension of the DG of Energy Policy and Planning, Omhi Aphane, (a long-time and experienced government staffer) on on an issue regarding of nuclear consultancy fees, according to the media.   It would appear a whistle blower is at work in DoE.

Minister Kubayi is certainly causing waves and many hope that the responsibility for Eskom is to be handed over to this Minister from the DPE, back to where it was originally rooted with all other energy resources.

Untouched as usual

The issue of debt relief legislation under the aegis of Chair Joan Fubbs of the Trade and Industry Committee will be important as will meetings on energy involving electricity, IPPs, nuclear and clearing up the PetroSA mess.   But first, this committee should sort out what is to be done with a draft Copyright Bill amending and updating anchor legislation, laws that have not been touched since 1976.

What DTI have so far come up with has legal experts in complete confusion since there appears no understanding by DTI in their draft of the difference between paintings, works of art and the high-tec world of data authorship which underwrites commerce and industry and on which depends a massive IT industry both here and mostly abroad.   Fortunately, with a person like Joan Fubbs in charge, basic misunderstandings such as this will get sorted out.  However, that such unintended consequences might have occurred worries many.

The various Finance Committees will meet for joint sessions for a number of tax and money Bills and amendment proposals and Posts and Telecommunications will hear its Department’s comments on public hearings, all regarding the ICT White Paper Policy.

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