'Without functioning committees, Parliament will not function'

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa is the new chairperson of Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa).

It is a tradition for the Scopa chair to be given to an opposition party, and it was occupied by African People’s Convention’s Themba Godi for the last two terms of Parliament.

The African National Congress (ANC) announced its chairperson candidates for various committees in the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.

Former ministers have been proposed by the ANC to head portfolio committees.

However, the list also includes some controversial members like Faith Muthambi, Supra Mahumapelo and Mosebenzi Zwane.

Read: Inkatha Freedom Party ready to accept Scopa chair if ANC offers

What is the role of committee chairs in Parliament?

To discuss the role of committee chairs and these controversial names, Eusebius McKaiser chats to the former Scopa chair Godi, EWN senior parliamentary reporter Gaye Davies and Institute for African Alternatives director Ben Turok.

The Constitution mandates Parliament to oversee the executive and hold it to account, and it does this in several ways and is fulfilled through committees.

Themba Godi, Former chairperson - Scopa

He adds that committees are established in large measure to mirror the departments that exist in Cabinet.

If you have 35 ministries or departments, you are going to have 35 committees for each of those departments. Now that Cabinet has been reduced, it means that several committees will not exist.

Themba Godi, Former chairperson - Scopa

Godi says the committees are involved in parliamentary processes.

Without committees functioning, Parliament will not function. Two committees do not reflect Cabinet configuration, and this is a standing committee on appropriations and the standing committee on public accounts.

Themba Godi, Former chairperson - Scopa

Godi adds that parliamentary oversight is a political process and not an administrative process.

This means in the course of work, it is not just facts at play but politics also come into play. It is not just the ruling party that would seek to protect its territory at these committees, sometimes the opposition parties also do the same.

Themba Godi, Former chairperson - Scopa

Turok says South Africans inherited a party political system and that means the party decides policy.

The ANC has a secure centre in Luthuli House, where Ace Magashula is very keen on exercising his powers, maybe even more than his predecessor did. So you have a high degree of centralisation. But I wouldn't say that it is subverting the Constitution, but it does distort politics.

Ben Turok, Director - Institute for African Alternatives

Davies says the list of nominees for parliamentary committee chairs should mirror the departments that they are supposed to oversee.

She says when it comes to the ANC names, the public should be concerned.

We will be watching to see if people like Zwane's promise to do his work will bear fruit.

Gaye Davies, Senior Parliamentary reporter - EWN

Listen below to the full conversation:


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