/ 6 October 2023

Parliament exonerates career criminals

​Members of the National Assembly in Parliament have elected chairpersons to take control over portfolio committees in the legislature.
Parliament does not have robust enough rules governing member behaviour. (David Harrison/M&G)

It has been three months since Chief Justice Raymond Zondo made headlines for saying that should attempts again be made to capture the state, parliament’s inability (or lack of will) to exercise oversight would probably lead to a repeat of those disastrous years.

Zondo’s mammoth report into state capture detailed numerous instances where parliament failed to ensure attempts at wholesale looting of state entities were exposed early and, this week, we again saw a parliamentary committee fail in its duty to hold politicians to account.

The Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests appeared to take lightly evidence in the state capture report that ANC MPs Cedric Frolick, Winnie Ngwenya and Mosebenzi Zwane, and Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, benefited from corrupt dealings. In brief:

• Nxesi was cleared of receiving a gratuity from controversial businessman Edwin Sodi because he said the money wasn’t for him;

• Frolick’s R40 000 a month from Bosasa, a former correctional services service provider, to help swing contracts its way was brushed off on the claim that the crime was committed before the current parliamentary rules were formed;

• Zwane’s clearly questionable behaviour with the controversial Gupta family while an MEC in the Free State did not fall under jurisdiction of the National Assembly; and 

• Ngwenya denied all allegations.

And that was that.

Two obvious issues arise out of these findings. First, parliament does not have robust enough rules governing member behaviour. 

Second, despite saying it is intent on cleaning up the muck, the governing party continues to retain compromised members.

In any functional democracy, a political party would be humiliated and find it extremely difficult to keep such tarnished individuals in its caucus. Not in South Africa — and certainly not in the ANC. 

Many in the public view them not as politicians but as career criminals, trying to loot as much as possible for themselves and their party, using any excuse to achieve this aim. How can one refute this perception when time and time again ANC MPs, in particular, are not held to account?

The reality of the South African public is that the ANC-led government is a gang of looters. Finish and klaar. 

We would call on President Cyril Ramaphosa to ask for the removal of these members, and others, but he has shown himself to be weak and more concerned with placating global dictators than forging a sustainable democracy at home.

We are a country with a bleak outlook over the short to medium term. To navigate the treacherous months and years ahead, we need MPs who are above reproach and not swindlers looking for crumbs at the table of their corporate paymasters. The evidence suggests that will not happen with the ANC in power.