Senior African National Congress legislator Vincent Smith has been elected as the new chairperson of parliament’s portfolio committee on justice, replacing ANC veteran Mathole Motshekga.
An announcement in parliamentary papers in the morning said Moshekga had been removed both as a member and chairman of the committee and that Smith had been appointed to the committee.
However, most members of parliament (MPs) only learnt the news when they arrived at a meeting of the committee to discuss the written submission by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on why it should not initiate a process of removing her from her post.
After he was elected as chair, Smith asked that the meeting be postponed to give him time to familiarise himself with the Mkhwebane matter.
Smith garnered six votes compared to five for African Christian Democratic Party MP Steve Swart, who was nominated for the chairperson post by Democratic Alliance MP Glynnis Breytenbach.
He had served as the chairperson of the committee on financial management of parliament. Motshekga has now been appointed to that committee as a member.
As head of the justice portfolio committee, Motshekga was considered highly partisan and frequently clashed with opposition MPs.
He also chaired the ad hoc committee that controversially cleared former president Jacob Zuma of any wrongdoing in the Nkandla scandal involving state-funded upgrades to his private home.
Smith has been a member of parliament since 1999. He chaired the ad hoc committee that investigated governance at the South African Broadcasting Corporation and the ad hoc committee on political party funding and is co-chair of the Joint Constitutional Review Committee, which is considering submissions on amending section 25 of the Constitution to expressly allow land expropriation without compensation.
The opposition welcomed Motshekga’s removal from the post.
“The DA is elated that Dr Motshekga has been removed from the justice portfolio committee,” Breytenbach said.
“Provided a competent chairperson is elected to replace him, it could improve the efficacy, objectivity and output of the committee considerably.”
Swart concurred that the committee had been “struggling”.
He added that the sudden decision by the ruling party to bring Smith to the justice committee could signal the party’s haste to adopt a constitutional amendment, given that he headed the review committee.
“It also appears that the ANC may be preparing the ground for a constitutional amendment to permit the expropriation of land without compensation, given that Mr Smith is also the co-chairperson of the Joint Constitutional Review Committee as well as the ANC’s recent announcement on land expropriation.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa last week told parliament he was intent on proceeding with land expropriation to speed up redistribution because failure to do so would result in instability.
– African News Agency (ANA)