Parliament is a circus lately. Anyone who tells you otherwise has either never been there or is blatantly lying to your face. It’s funny; you’d think a place that houses the country’s political dignitaries and is responsible for passing the legislation that runs the country would take that responsibility and put its ideological differences aside for the wellbeing of the country. Well, you’re wrong, and last week was no exception. While last week was scheduled for the National Assembly to debate a number of bills and for MPs to account for what they’ve been doing since parliament’s first term started on June 17, the whole thing just degenerated into a heckling session. Here’s a summary of the week:
No one knows where Number One is
In an attempt to exercise some sort of parliamentary transparency, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was scheduled to answer questions from MPs on the goings on of parliament in the past few months. Wednesday’s sitting was… bizarre, to put it mildly. In a session meant for the deputy president to be fielding questions from opposition MPs, the attention inevitably shifted to the whereabouts of President Zuma. Where was he while all of this was happening? Ramaphosa’s (non) answer didn’t inspire much confidence.
“There’s been a great deal of adherence by ministers to answer questions in parliament,” began the deputy president. “Ministers have done their utmost to avail themselves and I have yet to see a fault in the process,” he concluded. Huh?
As you can imagine, chaos ensued. There were heckles from the uppermost parts of parliament’s chambers, with opposition ministers shouting “and where is Zuma?”, “what about ‘Number One?’” The deputy had no answer and, as we speak, the president continues to be a man of mystery. In Lesotho this week, Russia the next but never in parliament. Icy times.
The DA tries their hand at “toyi-toying”
With the house descending into chaos on Wednesday, a response from the opposition was always going to be an eventuality. And boy was it explosive. Well, sort of. On Thursday, the DA’s Mmusi Maimane and Helen Zille led a protest to the National Assembly to voice their displeasure at the president’s and his government’s alleged lack of accountability. To give the situation a bit of context, earlier in the week, Zille and a host of other opposition parties had struck a deal with the deputy president to hold off on a censure (an expression of criticism) against the president and have the EFF’s suspension temporarily withheld. The deal lasted all of 24 hours – with the DA claiming it was farcical after the proceedings the previous day.
“The deal was to stick by the rules. The president broke the rules by refusing to come to parliament. We never gave the ANC carte blanche to break the rules,” Zille told the press.
Transparency, parliamentary decorum and other myths
All of the above-mentioned really point to a lack of transparency from inside the chambers of parliament. The president’s absence from parli is indicative of a larger “don’t care” culture from the ANC as the president has yet to address or acknowledge the matter. If he isn’t willing to answer to MPs – who could very well censure him out of office or lay motions of no confidence against him – why should he answer to the people who put him into office for the next half a decade? Things are falling apart in parli.
Image courtesy of GovernmentZA
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