/ 20 June 2019

Parliament’s budget watchdog role tipped to go to the IFP

Several sources have told the Mail & Guardian
Several sources have told the Mail & Guardian, the Inkatha Freedom Party is tipped to take the position. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

The ANC says it has identified which opposition party it would ask to take the chairpersonship of Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa). But it says it cannot confirm which party in particular, while it is still in negotiations.

Several sources have told the Mail & Guardian, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) is tipped to take the position.

Speaking at a press conference in Cape Town to announce the party’s portfolio committee chairpersons on Wednesday, ANC secretary general Ace Magashule said: “As we said, we are giving it to an opposition party, but we are still consulting the opposition party on Scopa.”

The IFP is also keeping mum on the matter. Narend Singh, its chief whip in the National Assembly, said they have not been approached. “We saw that on a list. It had “IFP” written next to Scopa. That’s as far as we know.”

Asked if the party will accept the position if approached, Singh said: “Ya, definitely.”

The M&G understands the ANC plans to offer the position to the IFP in exchange for support in metros lost during 2016 local government elections.

The ANC lost control of Johannesburg, Tshwane, and Nelson Mandela Bay metros during the electoral bloodbath. Added to the Cape Town metro, which the ANC lost in 2006, the party controls only one of the five largest municipalities in the country.

The IFP, with its five seats in the Johannesburg metro, is currently a coalition partner of the Democratic Alliance (DA). Even with the IFP’s support, the ANC would still need votes from other political parties, including the EFF if it wants to wrest control from the DA.

But the IFP’s Singh says there’s no such agreement as yet.

“They haven’t approached us formally, so there are no formal discussions with them with regards to this position. They haven’t asked us for anything, and we haven’t asked them for anything. If it comes our way we would want to contribute to good governance by putting someone in that chair,” he said.

If the IFP does accept the Scopa chairpersonship, 32-year-old MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa is likely to be chairperson. He is a former member of the accounting watchdog and has been known to grill even the most senior of Cabinet ministers on wasteful and irregular spending.

He declined to give comment until given the go-ahead by his party.

The ANC’s chief whip Pemmy Majodina confirmed the party is in talks with one opposition party, but would not be drawn into saying which one without permission from the ANC’s national executive committee.

“At the moment we are still making representations to the top six [of the ANC’s leadership], and we are unable to say which party we have resolved on. But there are political engagements taking place,” she said.

The position of chairperson of Parliament’s public accounts watchdog traditionally goes to an opposition party in the spirit of transparency and good governance. The role was previously held by Themba Godi of the African People’s Convention (APC).

The APC did not get enough votes in the 2019 general election to obtain a single seat in the National Assembly.

Following the elections on May 8, the DA had extended an olive branch to the ANC, intimating it would like the Scopa chairperson in the National Assembly.

The DA offered the ANC the position in the Western Cape legislature. It was duly accepted.

The DA said that there have been informal deliberations with the ANC on the Scopa position.

But that does not appear to have come to fruition.