Pretoria - In a move to bring political clout to Parliament’s powers and privileges committee, the forum which can discipline MPs, the ANC has brought out its heavyweights now the committee is finally re-established, three months into the life of the current term.
The MPs’ names were published in the Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports (ATC), Parliament’s record of work, a day after the “pay back the money” disruption of President Jacob Zuma’s question time by the 25 Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MPs.
Among the ANC representatives are Charles Nqakula, an MP of the joint standing committee on intelligence (JSCI), former police minister, ex-ambassador to Mozambique and one-time political adviser to Zuma, and three committee chairpersons, including Joyce Moloi-Moropa, the SACP national treasurer in charge of the communications committee, home affairs chairman Lemias Mashile, and Richard Mdakane who chairs the co-operative governance committee.
Also on the committee is Juli Kilian, who defected to the ANC from Cope just before the May 7 elections, and is known for her knowledge of parliamentary rules.
The ruckus following EFF parliamentary leader Julius Malema’s question - ultimately left unanswered - to Zuma about when he would repay money related to the R215 million taxpayer-funded security upgrades at his Nkandla homestead as per the public protector report has triggered a strong response from the governing party.
In the aftermath, which for the first time in democratic South Africa saw riot police at Parliament, the ANC demanded strong sanctions to prevent a repeat, describing the EFF chants as “a clear attack on legitimate democratic institutions”. This was after Zuma in his response to Parliament earlier this year, in which he jointly dealt with the findings of the public protector, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and a 2013 inter-ministerial task team, left it to Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko to decide on what he would have to repay.
The powers and privileges committee may consider any matter referred to it by the Speaker relating to contempt of Parliament or members’ misconduct. It is established under the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament Act.
A guilty verdict by the committee could lead to a formal warning, reprimand, an order to apologise, a fine of no more than a month’s salary, the suspension of a parliamentarian’s right to participate in any proceedings, or the suspension of a parliamentarian, with or without pay, for up to 30 days.
Such proceedings do not preclude criminal investigations against parliamentarians.
Offences in the act, aside from contempt, include creating a disturbance, interfering with the performance of Parliament or any of its structures, threatening or assaulting a fellow parliamentarian, and inducing a fellow parliamentarian to attend, or not, a meeting or to vote in a certain manner.
However, the formal re-establishment of the committee raises questions additional to why it has taken so long. In June, Parliament promised to take steps against Malema for his refusal to withdraw his claim that “the ANC government massacred the people in Marikana”, for which he was expelled, triggering an EFF walkout to shouts of “murderers”, from the debate on the president’s State of the Nation address.
Describing such behaviour as “disruptive” and “unacceptable”, the presiding officer, National Council of Provinces chairwoman Thandi Modise, vowed steps would be taken, saying she would consult Hansard, the official transcription of proceedings, and Speaker Baleka Mbete.
To date there has been no official announcement on this.
Additional questions over the ANC’s list of powers and privileges committee representatives, which differed in the official ATC and the party’s media statement, could not be clarified.
Meanwhile, the ANC has named its six MPs to the 11-strong ad hoc committee which must consider the president’s response to the Nkandla saga by October 24. These include house chairman Cedric Frolick, ANC deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude and four committee chairpersons: Francois Beukman (police), Mathole Motshekga (justice and correctional services), Mmamoloko Kubayi (telecommunications and postal services) and Beatrice Ngcobo (tourism). Motshekga and Kubayi were chief whip and deputy respectively until a change in mid-2013.