The ANC’s chief whip in the National Assembly has said she will stand by controversial chairpersons of parliamentary committees until they are convicted in a court of law.
This week, Pemmy Majodina attended committee meetings, where controversial members of Parliament who have been engaged in questionable conduct and former cabinet ministers in former president Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet were elected as the new chairpersons of portfolio committees.
But Majodina maintained these MPs have not been found guilty in a court of law of any wrongdoing, and it is her job as chief whip to support them. “We are dealing with human beings. Some will have their errors. Others will be accused. As a chief whip, I have a right to support our members wherever they find themselves in corners.”
While the chief whip is a member of Parliament, who is by law allowed to attend any parliamentary committee, it is unusual to see them personally following proceedings.
“We are all want to strive for integrity, for good ethics from our members but if there are certain issues raised about our members so I must also be in those meetings. So if further investigation is needed then I can be informed about our members,” Majodina said.
The chief whip says committee chairpersons have been vetted by the ANC’s integrity commission. And that until they are charged with any crime and found guilty, they are allowed to participate in any capacity while being a member of parliament.
“We can’t allow any South African citizen to tried on the streets. But if those things come in a formal meeting, then one has to listen. We are a listening organisation,” she added.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) had tried and failed to block the appointment of controversial chairpersons by attempting to filibuster debate in committees, and nominating their own candidates. With the ANC’s overwhelming majority in committees, this proved futile.
The official opposition now says it plans to lay official complaints with Parliament’s presiding officers.
“We will be submitting complaints against the wholly unsuitable ANC chairpersons to the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests. We will do everything in our power to make sure that the sixth Parliament becomes a beacon of hope in the next five years, rather than a hollow institution at the mercy of ANC factions,” the party’s chief whip, John Steenhuisen said in a statement.
Among the controversial appointments is former Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who returns to Parliament as chairperson of the police committee. Joemat-Pettersson was reshuffled out of Zuma’s Cabinet in March 2017 after the Central Energy Fund’s strategic oil stocks were sold off on her watch.
Former Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane is chairperson of the transport committee. Zwane has, alongside ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule, been implicated in the Vrede Dairy project saga. He was Agriculture MEC in the Free State at the time of the project.
Money was allegedly diverted from an agriculture project meant to benefit emerging farmers into the coffers of the Gupta family for a lavish wedding at Sun City.
Supra Mahumapelo, a former premier of the North West, is the chairperson of the portfolio committee on tourism.
Mahumapelo, who was once a member of the so-called ‘premier league’, was stripped of the premiership and the province was placed under administration by the national government.
Former State Security Minister Bongani Bongo is the new chairperson of the home affairs committee.
Last year, he was accused of trying to bribe a parliamentary staffer who was leading evidence into allegations of capture at Eskom. The Parliamentary ethics committee has yet to finish its investigation into the matter.
And former Communications Minister Faith Muthambi now runs the committee overseeing cooperative governance and traditional affairs.
According to deputy director-general acting of the department, Phumla Williams, testifying at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry, Muthambi tried to destabilise government communication and information systems (GCIS).