DA reiterates its call for Mbete to step down as speaker

Baleka Mbete in Parliament (Photo by Gallo Images / Foto24 / Denvor de Wee)

Baleka Mbete in Parliament (Photo by Gallo Images / Foto24 / Denvor de Wee)

At the weekend, parliament came to Mbete’s defence, saying she is not responsible for unruly behaviour by MPs and disruptions in the House.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has once again reiterated its call for National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete to step down, saying she is unfit for the position because of her role as the chairperson of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

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Presenting the DA’s 2016 parliamentary review during a news conference in parliament on Monday‚ DA chief whip John Steenhuisen accused the speaker of extreme bias towards opposition MPs and constantly representing “the interest of Luthuli house”.

“[She] has failed on numerous occasions to uphold her constitutional responsibilities as the speaker by showing extreme bias when presiding on the house. She defends and protects President [Jacob] Zuma at every opportunity.

“She takes ANC points of order while ignoring those from the opposition‚ and she has made some atrocious rulings in the house recently. The DA maintains that her position as chairperson of the national executive committee of the ANC makes her unfit for the position of speaker‚” Steenhuisen said.

But a statement released at the weekend by the national legislature said the unruly behaviour of MPs and disruptions in the National Assembly could not be blamed on Mbete.

“The speaker‚ although an elected politician‚ is not responsible for political decision-making – she is‚ instead‚ the custodian and arbiter of the rules and procedures governing the house.

“The ability of the National Assembly to process matters before it depends on the participation and cooperation of political parties. If political parties decide to walk out of proceedings in order for the Assembly not to be quorate‚ it can never be held against the speaker.

“Similarly‚ if political parties decide to disrupt proceedings for whatever reason that again cannot be held against the speaker. It is not the responsibility of the speaker to enforce party discipline or muster quorums‚ but rather the chief whips and whips of parties‚” parliament said.

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According to the official opposition’s parliamentary review, the DA said it had performed “exceptionally well in holding the executive to account” despite the shortened parliamentary year due to the local government elections in August.

“The DA asked 81% of all written and oral questions in 2016; this compared to a pitiful 0.5% by the ANC‚ 7‚5% by the EFF and 11% by all other opposition parties combined‚” he said.

The DA’s review also showed that the executive wasn’t taking its constitutional obligations to account to parliament seriously, Steenhuisen said.

“For instance‚ the department of higher education‚ despite being in the grips of a massive student funding crisis‚ failed to answer 57% [as of Monday 5 December] of the written questions posed to them this year.”

The party also heaped praise on some of its public achievements related to its compliant with to the office of the public protector regarding allegations of “state capture”, saying that meant that South Africans finally knew some of the depths of the “mafia-like control that President Zuma and his Gupta cronies have over the country”.

“Finally‚ the DA has done everything in our capacity to fight against the capture of the NPA and the SABC – and will continue to do so when the SABC inquiry continues in parliament this week,” he added.

Parliament’s presiding officers‚ led by Mbete‚ are due to brief the media on Wednesday on parliament’s highlights of 2016‚ including its successes and challenges.

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