For too long the legislative arm of parliament has come under fire for scandals, and credibility has to be restored. This was the message from DA chief whip in parliament John Steenhuisen yesterday, who said parliamentary procedures had been found wanting.
“The DA, and indeed the entire opposition benches, is returning to parliament, after the local government elections, victorious and ready to hold the executive to account at every possible opportunity,” Steenhuisen said. “This is not a time for rest, but rather, a time to fight for our country and our constitution like never before.”
There had to be reforms or parliament would effectively be in dereliction of its constitutional mandate; to ensure that all laws passed were subject to proper levels of interrogation and public input. The functioning of parliament had to be scrutinised.
Topping the DA’s agenda for the third term was to address poorly drafted and improperly passed legislation; resolving the continued union dispute by parliamentary staff; and reform the ethics committee. Other particular points of consternation were an urgent establishment of an inquiry into the SABC; and “the long overdue appointment of an inspector-general of intelligence”.
Time and again, the presiding officers, including National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise, had shied away from their responsibilities to protect the sanctity of parliament, the party argued. This often ended in court action being resorted to.
Steenhuisen said this was most recently noted in the matter relating to the ethics committee’s “witch-hunt” against DA leader Mmusi Maimane in June. In its judgment, the Western Cape High Court ruled the committee had acted in bad faith and was biased against Maimane over the disclosure of all his monetary assets. Maimane was vindicated. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s failure to appear for oral questions this month was another breach of parliamentary rules.
“This is unacceptable. Ramaphosa must make himself available in both August and September, and must take the necessary steps to ensure this happens,” he said.