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DA: Statement by Athol Trollip, Democratic Alliance Parliamentary leader, on the Presidential Portfolio Committee (21/07/2010)

21st July 2010


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ANC Chief Whip announces that ANC has unilaterally disbanded multiparty team tasked with investigating establishment of presidential portfolio committee;
ANC's conduct constitutes direct attack on the ability of Parliament to conduct effective oversight of the executive;
The DA will request urgent meeting with Speaker and Chairperson of Committees to investigate this matter

ANC Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga has announced that the ruling party has unilaterally disbanded the multiparty task team created to investigate the establishment of a portfolio committee to oversee the Presidency. Despite an initial show of support by key members of the ANC - including the Speaker, Hon Max Sisuslu - for the DA's proposal to establish such a body, and even a subsequent attempt by the ruling party to claim the idea as it own, the ANC has now made an abrupt about-turn.

Hon Motshekga dismissed the establishment of the multiparty committee as an "administrative mistake" and has refused to give further details concerning its disbandment, calling it an "internal matter".


The ANC's handling of the DA's proposal to increase oversight of the Presidency has revealed a number of ugly truths about the ruling party.

Firstly, this was an ideal opportunity for ANC legislators to demonstrate they are serious about their constitutionally enshrined oversight role, and are not simply Luthuli House puppets. Hon Motshekga's comments that there was no evidence that the proposal to establish a Presidential Portfolio Committee would be given priority by Parliament, which was considering "thousands" of submissions, is a weak attempt to justify the ANC's refusal to embrace increased executive oversight.


What, after all, could be more important than ensuring that the President of the country - the head of the executive - is subjected to legislative oversight? The establishment of a Presidential Portfolio Committee would help to ensure that the Presidency, which sits at the apex of government, has a budget of almost three quarters of a billion rand and has been beset by problems since President Zuma assumed power, is subjected to the same oversight as all other government departments. A party that was fit to govern would have identified its importance, regarded it as a top priority and addressed as a matter of urgency.

Secondly, the divergent opinions of key ANC representatives concerning this matter, and the vacillating response of the ANC to the DA's proposal, are a testament to both the internal ructions within the ruling party and its chronic inability to develop coherent plans of action. This trend has come to characterise the activities of the Zuma administration - consider the numerous about-turns made regarding the State Owned Enterprises review committee and the government's continual failure to commit to a clear economic vision for the country.

Thirdly, the ANC's unilateral disbandment of the multiparty task team underscores its fundamental belief that it is omnipotent and answerable to no-one. This is a direct attack on the basic principles on which our democracy is based - of which the ANC, as the majority party, should be the custodian.

The party's decision to classify the task team's disbandment as an "internal matter" also serves to highlight the ANC's absolute disregard for the separation between party and state. This is not a party issue. It is a matter concerning the administration of the state, and Parliament's ability to conduct oversight of it. The ANC's decision to bypass the parliamentary structures which are mandated to manage the DA's proposal is a direct attack on the powers of Parliament, and a clear abuse of power by the ruling party.

In short, the ANC's handling of this matter is deplorable and hopelessly short-sighted, and demonstrates that the ANC remains fundamentally concerned with centralising power in the executive.

We believe that this decision is wrong, and that the establishment of a committee to oversee the Presidency must be placed back on the top of Parliament's agenda. I will be calling on the Speaker, Hon Max Sisuslu, and the Chairperson of Committees, Hon Obed Baphela, to convene an urgent meeting in this regard.



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