The African National Congress (ANC) has agreed “in principle” to an Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) proposal aimed at reducing the amount of time given to Deputy President David ‘DD’ Mabuza’s question-and-answer sessions in parliament.
ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina told the Sunday Times the ANC was not opposed to amending the rules and said parliament’s chief whips agree that the deputy president’s monthly appearances should be shortened after the EFF lobbied for their support.
According to the publication, the ANC’s backing of the proposal “in principle” isn’t necessarily an endorsement of the EFF’s views on Mabuza, which, according to the party’s deputy secretary-general Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi, are that he wastes parliament’s time, doesn’t answer questions, and is uninformed.
The Sunday Times also reports that parliamentary speaker Thandi Modise warned against the proposal at a meeting of the National Assembly’s programming committee, saying the Q&As were an effective way of gauging whether members of government were competent.
While the EFF seems to want to see less of Mabuza in parliament, the deputy president himself may not put up an argument. He has missed three parliamentary Q&A sessions since the beginning of his term, with reasons including that he was on a peace-keeping mission to Sudan.
Modise said at the same meeting that parliament would get tough on members of government who missed their Q&A sessions.
When Mabuza does show up, it’s possible he wishes he hadn’t – for example when EFF deputy spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi stunned him with a question on nanotechnology.
Ndlozi, clearly intending to embarrass Mabuza and show him up, asked him how “nanotechnology will affect medical diagnosis”.
The deputy president gave an incoherent answer which included him admitting that he wasn’t sure which industrial revolution South Africa was currently in.
The DA’s then chief whip John Steenhuisen – who is now the party’s interim leader as well as its leader in parliament – suggested that Mabuza might need to “phone a friend”. Ndlozi then rose on a point of order and advised Mabuza to go and educate himself, particularly on nanotechnology.
The deputy president published a column shortly afterwards on Business Day, in an apparent attempt to prove he was actually knowledgeable about industrial revolutions.
The column argued that the fourth industrial revolution was “nothing to joke about” and appeared to reference the Ndlozi incident towards the end, although not directly.
Some in the comments section expressed disbelief that he’d actually written the piece.
Before becoming a politician, Mabuza was a mathematics teacher and school principal. Whether the syllabus of the schools he worked at covered industrial revolutions or nanotechnology is unclear.
Mabuza’s spokesperson would not comment except to say this was a parliamentary matter.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Background reporting, Charles Cilliers)