The DA will write to the Presiding Officers to implore them to postpone SONA

The Democratic Alliance will again write to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Thandi Modise, to request that the State of the Nation Address (SONA) be postponed. The DA maintains that South Africans simply cannot be subjected to a SONA delivered by a discredited president heading a discredited administration.

Following a formal request from the Leader of the Opposition, Mmusi Maimane, on 31 January, the Speaker responded and indicated that she has “no power” to accede to the request and postpone the SONA. This is not only entirely unacceptable, but a clear misinterpretation of what the Rules of Parliament allow.

While the Constitution and the Joint Rules of Parliament indicate that the President may summon the NA and NCOP for extraordinary sittings to conduct special business such as the SONA, it remains within the prerogative of the Presiding Officers to determine when this happens.

The DA will therefore request that the Presiding Officers arrange for the Joint Programming Committee to convene urgently to reschedule SONA and allow the ordinary business of Parliament to continue notwithstanding.

We simply cannot continue with SONA as if it’s “business as usual” conditions. Criminal charges of corruption against Zuma have been revived and it is now widely expected that he will be removed as president of South Africa by either the ANC or through a parliamentary impeachment motion.

These extraordinary circumstances warrant extraordinary action – the ANC cannot hold the country hostage as we wait for their party to recall their lame-duck president. South Africa cannot spend millions on SONA when, in effect, neither he nor his administration will be around to implement any of the policies or plans he announces.

The ANC must clean-house and remove ZUMA as a matter of urgency or we risk SONA becoming an R11 million farce at the expense of tax-payers. The Presiding Officers must therefore put South Africa first and postpone SONA.

I have requested that SONA be postponed until Parliament can elect a new President for South Africa

I have written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, requesting that this year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), scheduled for next Thursday 8 February, be postponed until Jacob Zuma has been removed from office, and Parliament is afforded an opportunity to elect a new President.

It is no secret that there is a battle within the ANC and the national executive  – with each side holding starkly differing policies, ideological positions and plans of action. While Cyril Ramaphosa is the ANC President, Jacob Zuma remains President of South Africa, leaving the country not knowing which direction is being pursued.

As things stand, it would not be in the best interests of South Africa for President Zuma to deliver the State of the Nation Address when there exists great uncertainty as to whether he will remain President, and if so, for how long. While the ANC’s National Working Committee (NWC) has requested Jacob Zuma be removed before SONA, the ANC’s Deputy Secretary-General, Jessie Duarte, has gone on record saying Jacob Zuma is “going nowhere”.

Last year’s State of the Nation Address cost over R11 million. We cannot afford to waste this amount of public money for Jacob Zuma to deliver the government’s programme of action for the coming year in his SONA, when it is not likely that he will remain the President of the Republic much longer.

According to the new rules of Parliament adopted last year, Parliament is currently open for business, and does not require a SONA for the House and its committees to continue its work.

Therefore the Speaker must act in the interests of all South Africans, and postpone the State of the Nation Address until the ANC leadership battle has been resolved.

Parliament must commence impeachment proceedings against Jacob Zuma

The Constitutional Court has delivered yet another blow to President Zuma and his keepers. Today, the Constitutional Court ruled that Parliament has violated its constitutional obligation to hold President Zuma to account by failing to determine whether he has breached section 89 of the Constitution. This is a consequence of the ANC capturing Parliament and turning it into a lapdog of the Executive for the sole purpose of consistently protecting Zuma and his corrupt acolytes at all costs.
Parliament’s evolution into another captured arm of Jacob Zuma’s corrupt administration has been championed by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete. She has consistently been found wanting in several court judgments for failing to fulfil her constitutional duties in order to protect Zuma and the corrupt ANC – this judgment has again made it clear that Baleka Mbete is unfit to serve as Speaker of the National Assembly.
Following yesterday’s judgment, Parliament has been ordered by the Court to comply with its constitutional duties without delay in terms of section 237 and fulfil its obligation to determine whether the President should be impeached. This is a direct result of the Nkandla ruling which found Zuma to have failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law in South Africa.
This now requires that Parliament step up and correct its course before it is completely lost. The Democratic Alliance therefore requests that the Speaker attend to the following:

  • Parliament must earnestly apply itself to the question of whether Baleka Mbete is still fit to hold office as Speaker of the National Assembly in light of the damning judgments against her;
  • Parliament’s Rules Committee must be ordered to meet as a matter of urgency in order to review Parliament’s Rules and Procedures governing impeachment in order to comply with the judgment of the Constitutional Court and section 237 of the Constitution;
  • The DA’s motion to impeach Jacob Zuma must be re-tabled as soon as reasonably possible and debated in a manner that is consistent with constitutionally compliant rules devised by the Rules Committee.

It is now the task of Parliament to ensure that the rules governing impeachment do not fall victim to another farcical ANC process in which majoritarian tactics are used to bully the Rules Committee into devising rules designed to absolve Jacob Zuma. The rules devised by the Rules Committee must be constitutionally compliant and the process must be imbued with constitutionality. Accordingly, we request that the Speaker comply with the order of the highest court in South Africa and do the honourable thing – accede to our requests and set Parliament back on course to fulfill its constitutional mandate.

ANC does about turn on DA’s urgent debate on Fees crisis

I have again written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, to request a debate on the Fees Commission Report as soon as possible. The Report was not debated yesterday despite a debate having been agreed to.
On 14 November 2017, I wrote to the Speaker requesting a debate on the Report, which was released by the Presidency after over two months of dithering, on 13 November 2017.
The DA received a letter from the Deputy Speaker, Lechesa Tsenoli, agreeing to our request that this important issue should be discussed by the Assembly. We prepared for a debate in which we intended to bring to the attention of the public the degree to which the vagueness and opaqueness of the government’s approach to the funding of higher education is likely to generate a major crisis in Universities in the New Year.
However, the ANC made a sudden about-turn yesterday on the debate, and failed to place it on the order paper. Instead it tabled a discussion on the unscheduled and non-urgent Refugees Amendment Bill.
The DA called for the debate in order to force the Minister to make clear what her approach would be to the funding of students and Universities in the upcoming 2018 academic year. She avoided public scrutiny on the matter.
Perhaps this is not surprising given the reported dispute between the populist President and the fiscally cautious Treasury on the matter and the plethora of other weird happenings around the issue.
The ANC’s fumbling and floundering is a clear indication that they are running scared of debating this matter  – because it would reveal the extent to which their plans and approach are in disarray, in the fact of a massive budget deficit and threatened student protests.
It has become more apparent that the dying ANC has so far dismally failed to come up with real solutions to put on the table.
Leaving the entire higher education sector in the dark will almost definitely lead to further tumultuous protests on university campuses, while Universities may well have to run on budget deficits themselves if no fee increase decisions are made before the end of the year.
The whole fees issue requires responsible oversight and political direction so that the fees crisis can be dealt with decisively. The current damaging uncertainty must be brought to an end. But the ANC is unable or unwilling to provide the leadership required.

DA demands protection for Eskom Inquiry committee members and witnesses

The Democratic Alliance will write to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, to demand protection for both members of the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises currently investigating allegations of State Capture at Eskom as well as the witnesses appearing before the inquiry.
It is clear from recent media reports that those implicated in the illicit activity at Eskom will stop at nothing to hamper the investigation into State Capture. It has already emerged that witnesses appearing before this committee are at risk, as evidenced in Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara’s affidavit in which he alleges that State Security Minister Bongani Bongo attempted to bribe him to step down as evidence leader in the inquiry.
However, committee members are now also being targeted – the Democratic Alliance’s member on this committee, Natasha Mazzone, has recently been followed and her vehicle has also been tampered with.
As the truth emerges in this inquiry into how billions of rands are being unlawfully funnelled away from our state enterprises to a small group of politically connected criminals, it is blatantly obvious that both committee members and witnesses appearing before this inquiry need to be afforded protection by Parliament.
The Democratic Alliance will not yield to intimidation or halt our efforts to ensure that those implicated in State Capture are held to account and criminally prosecuted.

DA demands access to Audit Committee report on Secretary to Parliament

The Democratic Alliance has written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, demanding that the Audit Committee report detailing the investigation into suspended Secretary to Parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana, be made available to members of the Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament.
In May 2017, I submitted documents to the Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, to assist her investigation into the serious allegations of maladministration and abuse of power levelled against Mgidlana. These documents revealed how Mgidlana had, amongst others, irregularly used a state vehicle fitted with blue lights; had parliamentary staff chauffeur his wife; and conducted overseas trips, with his spouse, amounting to nearly R2 million.
While Mgidlana has been on “special leave” since 9 June 2017 and was in November formally placed on precautionary suspension pending the finalization of disciplinary proceedings against him, the Audit Committee report has not yet been made public. Despite this, on Thursday 16 November 2019, it emerged that the Standing Committee co-chair, Vincent Smith, had received a copy of the report.
There is a clear, legal duty to provide the report to the members of the Standing Committee. Section 49 of the Financial Management of Parliament Act (10 of 2009) is explicit on this matter – it states:
“If the audit committee becomes aware of information implicating the Accounting Officer in fraud, corruption or gross negligence, it must report this promptly to the Executive Authority and the oversight mechanism.”
The fact that only one member received the report is inappropriate and fatally irregular as it undermines well-established parliamentary procedure on handling documents considered confidential.
In my letter to the Speaker, I have demanded that each of the members of the Standing Committee immediately be provided with a copy of the report on condition that it be treated as confidential.
Mgidlana has been allowed to mismanage Parliament for far too long – we look forward to studying the findings of the Audit Committee report and taking decisive action.

DA calls for debate of national importance on funding of higher education

The DA has written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, to request that a debate on an urgent matter of national importance, in terms of National Assembly Rule 130, be held on the Fees Commission Report, which was released yesterday, 13 November 2017.
This debate will be critical for political direction and oversight and as required by NA Rule 130 (8) (d), this is a matter for which the government can be held responsible. It further relates to a specific matter of recent occurrence in terms of NA Rule 130 (8) (e).
The release of the long-awaited document has not been enough to calm the fears and anxieties of students, their families and higher learning institutions. Universities have been unable to set next year’s fees as they had been waiting for the President to release it, while students remained in the dark with regards to whether they would be able to study next year.
This uncertainly is increased by the bizarre rumours about an alternative funding model allegedly backed by President Zuma himself that seeks to finance higher education through the slashing of social grants and increasing VAT.
An urgent debate is therefore clearly needed and will provide much needed clarity on the country’s plan for higher education as well as rumours about the President’s alleged plans to bypass the report.
Funding higher education is in itself a matter of national public importance and it is essential that the government puts this uncertainty to an end. We trust the Speaker will do the right thing and allow this vital discussion to be held.

Parliament must do the right thing and fire Busisiwe Mkhwebane

The affidavit filed by Finance Minister, Malusi Gigaba, shows exactly why the DA has asked Parliament to initiate proceedings for the removal of the Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
We, therefore, believe the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services, Dr Mathole Motshekga, should schedule a meeting at the earliest possible convenience to ensure that the process begins.
It has been over two weeks since we have written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, requesting exactly this and South Africa can no longer be subjected to a Public Protector who has proved repeatedly that she clearly has no grasp of her mandate.
Among other things, the Minister states that she has failed to respond to his request for documents, and he makes the point that, in compiling her report on the Bankorp/ABSA “life-boat”, Mkhwebane:

  • made use of only selected documents before her and failed to consider other relevant documents, such as three reports on the matter by CIEX and the final report of the Heath Commission;
  • misrepresented having considered interviews which she did not conduct personally (as they were done by her predecessor) and for which she can’t produce any transcript or minutes;
  • failed to demonstrate why she believes that large amounts of the money are in fact recoverable

Mkhwebane has also failed to exercise impartiality in her role as Public Protector. This is an inexcusable shortcoming for someone who holds such an important post.
Papers filed by Barclays Africa allege that Mkhwebane went out of her way to hide the fact that she received submissions from Black First Land First. She also failed to provide full records of her investigation to the South African Reserve Bank and ABSA. This is unacceptable conduct as her office should be transparent.
Her report on the irregular handling of the Bapo ba Mogale community’s trust money is also being challenged, and in this matter too it seems that the Public Protector was not being cooperative in providing a full record of her decision-making.
Citizens cannot feel secure if they do not have trust in their Public Protector and Mkhwebane has clearly let down the people she has been appointed to serve. It is time for her to step down and Parliament has the power to ensure this happens.

DA to begin removal proceedings against Public Protector

The revelations that Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, first consulted President Jacob Zuma’s legal advisors and discussed further recommendations not included in her initial report into the ABSA/Bankorp bailout, casts serious doubt as to her independence.
This information has been revealed in annexures to the supplementary affidavit filed by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) and clearly demonstrates that Mkhwebane does not operate in an impartial manner but rather seems to take her orders from the Union Buildings.
The DA will, therefore, write to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, to request that this matter is dealt with by the relevant Portfolio Committee, in terms of Rule 337 and 338 of the National Assembly Rules.
Specifically, the DA in the Committee will call for removal proceedings to be initiated urgently. In terms of Section 194 of the Constitution, the Portfolio Committee has the power to make a finding of “misconduct, incapacity, or incompetence” against the Public Protector. Thereafter, the National Assembly must adopt a resolution calling for removal, which requires a two-thirds majority.
The DA has, from the get go, had serious doubts as to Mkhwebane’s suitability for the vital role of Public Protector. She has confirmed these doubts numerous times, including:

  • When she failed to act when President Jacob Zuma was trying to interdict the release of the State Capture report last year, which gave the first inkling of her bias;
  • When she jumped to the defence of the President by laying criminal charges against former Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, for releasing the transcript of her interview with the President;
  • When she has been sitting on key Gupta-related investigations for months; and
  • When she admitted to stepping outside of her mandate by recommending changing the Constitution regarding the mandate of the SARB, showing that she has very poor understanding of her own powers and the limits thereof.

The Public Protector is Constitutionally mandated to investigate misconduct by government departments and entities and to protect the public’s interest. Clearly, Mkhwebane is acting in the interest of the already captured Number 1 and must be removed before she is allowed to compromise the once proud office any further.

Baleka Mbete must now lay criminal charges against SABC liars

Now that the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, has finally tabled the report from Parliament’s Legal Services Unit identifying those who mislead or lied to the SABC Ad Hoc committee, she must ensure that criminal charges are laid against them.
The recommendation in the report of the Ad Hoc committee on the SABC inquiry was that Parliament itself lay charges against the individuals who misled the committee.
As Speaker, Mbete is the Constitutional Head of the National Assembly and must ensure that a recommendation of a report adopted by the National Assembly, including the ANC, is duly implemented.
The recommendation read: “Parliament’s Legal Services Unit, with the assistance of the Evidence Leader, should within 60 days from the adoption of this report by the National Assembly, identify the persons who misled the inquiry or provided false information or false testimony with the aim of criminal charges being laid”.
The report identified the following individuals as giving misleading or contradictory evidence and they are liable to a fine or imprisonment, or both:

  • Former Communications Minister, Faith Muthambi – whose testimony “could be seen as an attempt to mislead the Inquiry”.
  • Former Company Secretary, Theressa Geldenguys – for her “failure to inform the Committee that she was no longer the company secretary […] which could be considered as an attempt to mislead the Inquiry”.
  • Former SABC CEO, James Aguma – who might have provided the Inquiry with an email which “purports to lack authenticity as being that generated by the [Companies and Intellectual Property Commission] CIPC”. The report states that “in order to establish this fact conclusively further investigation needs to be undertaken to ascertain whether the email was generated by the CIPC”.
  • Former SABC Board Chair, Prof. Mbulaheni Maguvhe – Prof. Maguve and Minister Muthambi provided contradictory testimonies regarding the labour dispute between the SABC 8 and the SABC, which“could be indicative of Prof. Maguvhe misleading the Inquiry”.
  • Former SABC Board Chair, Dr Ben Ngubane – “[the] testimony offered by Dr Ngubane could be seen as an attempt to mislead the inquiry and that false information was presented to the Inquiry”.

Although the DA welcomes the tabling of this report, the reality is that it is almost 12 weeks overdue and has been sitting on the Speaker’s desk since the 5th of June.
Mbete must now ensure that she fully complies with the full recommendation of the report and lay criminal charges.
Misleading Parliament is a serious offense and the DA will ensure that this report will not stay just another report.
A clear message must be sent to those who think they can lie, under oath, to Parliament – lying will not be tolerated. It is now up to the Speaker to ensure that this message is sent otherwise the DA will ensure it is heard loud and clear.