Unprecedented abuse of Parliament by the ANC in 2014
08 December 2014
The DA has conducted an assessment of all activities in Parliament since the May elections. We have come to the conclusion that the fifth Parliament has seen unprecedented abuse by the ANC.
The bottom line is that the ANC has broken rules, undermined Parliament and acted undemocratically to protect its own interests, and in particular the interests of Jacob Zuma. The ANC majority in Parliament has become a blunt tool to use to protect President Zuma and cabinet Ministers from accounting for their actions.Never before have we seen the ANC acting with such blatant disrespect for Parliament.
The following elements are key to understanding how the ANC is abusing Parliament to protect the executive:
1) Refusal by the President to answer questions:
The President has not answered a full set of questions in Parliament since November 2013. This is an insult to Parliament, the rule of law and the Constitution, as the President is required to answers questions in Parliament every term. The ANC has been shameless in its willingness to protect the president from answering questions, trying every trick in the book to block a motion of censure against the President.
2) Time wasting:
The ANC in Parliament is committed to doing as little as possible in Parliament. During the first 17 sitting weeks of the fifth Parliament, it could have and should have sat 68 times to discuss and debate the various challenges our country faces. But unfortunately the ANC chose to schedule as few sittings as possible. In the end, Parliament sat only 39 times, which means Parliament sat only 57% of the time it could have.
3) Ignoring calls for important debates:
Since the start of the fifth Parliament, the DA called for 112 separate debates on important issues ranging from ratings downgrades, unemployment, crime, corruption to basic service delivery issues. This count excludes the large number of debates we moved for on the 13th of November when we filibustered the adoption of the Nkandla Ad Hoc Committee’s report. The vast majority of these debate requests were ignored.
4) Evasive answers:
The fact that Ministers often also answer disingenuously or in an incomplete fashion is aggravating the problems relating to questions. It is increasingly common for Ministers to shamelessly evade answering questions by providing complete non-answers, which makes it impossible for Parliament to hold the executive to account. Here is an excellent example:
Mr J H Steenhuisen (DA) asked the Minister of Public Works: [question 1861 from 17 October 2014]
1. What was the total amount spent on landscaping at the President’s homestead in Nkandla from 1 January 2009 up to the latest specified date for which information is available;
2. What amount was spent on (a) trees, (b) plants, (c) flowers, (d) grass, (e) paving, (f) sprinkler systems, (g) lighting and (h) any other related specified expenses in terms of landscaping;
3.What were the specific types of (a) trees, (b) plants, (c) flowers and (d) grass used;
4. Who were the contractors that were employed and (b) how much was each of them paid?
The Minister of Public Works answered:
The Department of Public Works was responsible for payments related to security upgrades at the President’s homestead in Nkandla.
This is a shocking example of a Minister simply refusing to respect the question that an opposition MP has posed.
5) Baleka Mbete:
The current Speaker of the House, Baleka Mbete, has used her seat to protect the ANC and protect President Zuma from scrutiny. She is clearly and obviously biased in favour of the ANC and cannot continue on as Speaker given that she is also the national chairperson of the ANC. She has clearly been deployed to Parliament to extend Luthuli House’s influence and the DA will continue all efforts to have her removed as Speaker.
6) The use of riot police Parliament:
The security cluster in cabinet and the Speaker has now taken to deploying heavily-armed riot police to the Parliamentary precinct to intimidate opposition MPs. This will not work, and did not work, when police attempted to invade the hall of the National Assembly. This incident was a disgrace and a clear violation of the Constitution, which dictates the separation of executive and legislative powers.
There were a number of crucial moments in Parliament during this year that underlines the ANC’s intentions in Parliament.
The Motion of no confidence debate in Baleka Mbete, which the DA moved for, but which the ANC did not support even though she is obviously inappropriate for her role.
The motion of censure against President Zuma for not answering questions, which the DA moved for, but which the ANC opposed even though the President hasn’t answered questions since November 2013.
The Ad Hoc Committee on the Public Protector’s Report on Nkandla, which the ANC turned into a white wash, refusing to summon either the President or the Public Protector to testify on this crucial matter.
The Powers and Privileges Committee investigation into the actions of the EFF on the ‘pay back the money’ fiasco. The investigation was little more than a kangaroo court aimed at achieving a predetermined outcome to suit the President’s political interests.
The DA has fought harder than ever before to hold the President and the cabinet to account. With our increased representation in the House, we have been able to place the ANC under enormous pressure, forcing debates on Nkandla, the President’s refusal to answer questions, Baleka Mbete’s inappropriateness as Speaker, the crisis at Eskom, and the report of the powers and privileges committee.
On a number of occasions this year, we have united the opposition to ensure that we hold the ANC to account.
We also continue to be, by far, the most effective Party in Parliament. This year, we asked 85% of all questions, while other opposition parties were responsible for 14% of the questions and the ANC for only 1% of the questions.
We will not allow the ANC to trample Parliament and the Constitution. We will continue the fight, and will work hard for positive Parliamentary reform next year.
Statement issued by Mmusi Maimane MP, DA Parliamentary Leader, December 8 2014