Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen has accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of building a parallel state and outsourcing Cabinet responsibilities to task teams.
“The president of the Republic of South Africa is busy building a parallel state. He is by-passing his Cabinet and centralising control in his office of a number of key ministerial responsibilities.
“Things like cutting red tape, the energy crisis [and] state security. These are key things that Parliament should be exercising oversight over,” Steenhuisen said.
Parliament’s oversight role
The DA leader made the remarks on Wednesday in Cape Town during a media briefing, in which the party unveiled its parliamentary reform document to get Parliament to work for all citizens.
The document – among other points – calls for the establishment of a committee to oversee the Presidency, increasing the representation of opposition committee chairpersons, and creating penalties for Cabinet ministers who fail to appear for meetings or answer oral questions adequately.
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Steenhuisen said matters that Parliament was supposed to conduct oversight over were removed from the relevant ministers and their departments, and replaced with commissions and presidential task teams.
“How does Parliament exercise oversight of people who are performing essentially the executive function, but has no oversight over them whatsoever?
“How do you summon a member of the presidential task team to Parliament? Unless you have the full powers to actually go out and subpoena people.”
He said their proposal to reform the national legislature was meant to empower the opposition, including ANC parliamentarians.
“[The president is] bypassing the appointed Cabinet and elected public representatives, and the subversion now of the state into a parallel state that is accountable to nobody, either than the president – whom himself is only accountable four times a year to this institution,” Steenhuisen said.
The official opposition party accused the governing ANC of using the national legislature as a “rubber-stamping lapdog”.
It said Parliament had failed to carry out proper oversight of the executive and state institutions to prevent state capture and corruption.
Steenhuisen cited, as an example, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s refusal, earlier this month, to establish an ad-hoc committee to investigate allegations surrounding the theft and alleged cover-up at Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm in Limpopo.
“This stems from the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment, where MPs are seen as being deployed to Parliament to do the bidding of the party,” he said.
The DA leader said South Africa’s constitutional democracy depended on Parliament functioning properly.
“This requires that the principle of separation of powers be strengthened in respect of Parliament in particular.
“Under the doctrine of separation of powers, Parliament should operate independently of the other two branches of government – the executive and the judiciary.”
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