Opposition parties express concerns on parliamentary oversight role, blame ruling party

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Some opposition parties in Parliament have criticised the testimonies made by both National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise and President Cyril Ramaphosa at the State Capture Commission. Modise and Ramaphosa both acknowledged Parliament’s oversight role did not do much to prevent state capture and corruption.

The opposition benches are blaming the majority party in the national legislature for protecting the executive to be held accountable.

The oversight role of Parliament to scrutinise the work of the executive was in the spotlight during Modise’s appearance last week and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s appearance this week.

Modise apologised to the commission. In her words, she said: “It is regrettable that the impression is Parliament only woke up when things were really bad. For that, we must apologise to the South African people.”

But the Inkatha Freedom Party says Modise and Ramaphosa’s testimonies have exposed the weaknesses of Parliament’s oversight role.

Thandi Modise’s testimony at the state capture commission: 

‘Blame for failure’

Party Chief Whip Narend  Singh says the African National Congress (ANC) has to take the blame for this failure.

“As the IFP and in particular as the Chief Whip of the Inkatha Freedom Party, I am not surprised by some of the things that have been said at the Zondo Commission of Enquiry both by the Speaker of Parliament and by President Cyril Ramaphosa. We have been on record as the IFP and hence I can prove this being critical of the system of oversight in Parliament. And that is largely because the ruling party which is the ANC members in particular compromised their positions when they are beholden to the executive.”

The main issues covered by the Commission on the first day of Ramaphosa’s appearance was around the role of the ANC in Parliament, effective parliamentary oversight, the constitutional powers of Parliament, the role of the ANC political committee, and the tension between the Oath of Office taken by an ANC Member of Parliament (MP), and the MP’s loyalty to the party.

A wrap of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s testimony at the state capture commission:

‘Take responsibility’

African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) MP Steve Swarts agreed with Singh of the IFP that the ANC should take responsibility. “While the ACDP appreciate that the Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise has apologised at the Zondo Commission for not stopping the Gupta-led state capture and wild spread corruption that took place, we want to make it very clear as the opposition parties including the ACDP that we tried our very best to expose state capture and corruption but we were largely defeated by the ANC in these attempts in the previous fifth Parliament. This was evident by the various opposition-led motion of confidence against former President Jacob Zuma which was not supported by the ANC.”

In its reaction, Congress of the People (COPE) believes these revelations that Parliament has failed to perform its constitutional duty demonstrates that the institution is failing the electorate. COPE national spokesperson, Dennis Bloem says it is not right that Members of Parliament are focusing on towing the party line.

“The voters of the country are betrayed by the Members of Parliament who say openly that they are towing party line when it comes to voting on any issue in Parliament even if they know it is wrong to do so. The honour they took to honour and respect the constitution means absolutely nothing to them, a political party comes first to them.”

The United Democratic Movement (UDM) says Ramaphosa should take the blame. “It is an indictment of President Cyril Ramaphosa that even under his leadership, Parliament continues to play a rubberstamping roles instead of it discharging its constitutional function and constitutional duty of holding members of the executive to account. Even under his leadership, even at the time he was still the deputy president of the republic, it is the ANC that turn Parliament into a toothless rubberstamping institution for all the dubious decision,” says UDM MP Nqabayomzi Nkwankwa.