Cape Town - Julius Malema has called for more robust debates in parliamentary oversight committees, saying MPs should avoid getting bogged down by endless briefings.
A soft-spoken EFF leader made his maiden appearance in the mineral resources portfolio committee on Wednesday and made his intentions clear.
ANC MP Mandla Mandela, who seems to have been strategically placed in the committee to keep the firebrand in check, had to remind Malema about procedures and responsibilities of portfolio committees. Mandela was appointed by the ANC to serve as the committee whip.
The meeting was also attended by representatives from Sasol and Tony Leon’s “reputation management” agency Resolve Communications.
While the election of the chairman of the committee was a foregone conclusion after the ANC announced its choices two weeks ago, the committee discussed how it should deal with certain issues.
Malema, who was also appointed as the EFF’s sole representative on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), is expected to raise issues related to the mining sector.
“If there are issues we want the committee to debate what is the direction, who do we submit to and what are the requirements because we are not just here to receive briefings on this, briefings on that,” said Malema.
He said the EFF had “issues we want debated and not briefings”.
Mandela said Malema had to be advised “so that he is clear on what is expected” of members of the portfolio committee.
“Here we receive briefings from stakeholders and departments so we can engage with the briefing that we have had. Debates are left for the House and that is where debates are tackled,” said Mandela.
Malema said his point was not about debates in the National Assembly. “I’m talking about a matter that will require substantive engagement by the committee and will need perhaps a day or so especially for that matter as a committee.”
Committee chairman Sahlulele Luzipo said the main task of the committee was to deal with issues that relate to budgetary processes.
“But I don’t think as the committee we will deny members when they want to submit issues. We will take those issues into consideration,” said Luzipo. The committee could not “run away” from briefings because they were necessary.
Malema is one of 10 new JSC members. The commission deals with the recommendation of judges, among other things. While his designation has caused a stir, former JSC commissioner and retired IFP chief whip Koos van der Merwe said Malema should be given a chance. “He is not necessarily a bad choice. He is one of 23 members. He only has one voice,” said Van der Merwe.
“Let’s give him a chance and see what happens.”
JSC spokesman Dumisa Ntsebeza said it was the prerogative of Parliament to elect its commission representatives. “The JSC is guided by what the constitution says, which makes provision for representation by political parties on the commission,” he said.
While Ntsebeza said it was not the JSC’s place to comment on something that was the prerogative of Parliament, he added: “It seems to me the JSC will never be the same when Julius comes along.”
The commission’s next sitting is expected to take place in October.