ANC pushes through controversial committee chairpersons

Members of the National Assembly in Parliament have elected chairpersons to take control over portfolio committees in the legislature.

These include the names of controversial MPs who have engaged in questionable conduct, and former cabinet ministers in former president Jacob Zuma’s cabinet who are making startling returns to political life.

Among them 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.

In December 2015, the Strategic Fuel Fund sold 10.3-million barrels at of the country’s oil reserves for less than the going market rate without permission from the national treasury.
By law, the fund must hold sufficient oil reserves to last the country for up to 21 days, equivalent to what was sold.

Former Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane was elected as 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 chairperson of the portfolio committee on tourism.

Mahumapelo, 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.

She is seen as a staunch Zuma supporter, and has also been caught up in allegations of impropriety. The former communications minister intentionally tried to destabilise government communication and information systems (GCIS). This is according to testimony given before the state capture inquiry by the deputy director-general acting of the department, Phumla Williams, in September 2018.

But after her election, Muthambi says her conscience is clear that she’s done nothing wrong.

“It doesn’t worry me a great deal. I’ve gone through the test. So where I am, I believe I am a fit and proper person to serve in this committee… If I was not a fit and proper person, I would not have been here on this committee,” Muthambi said.

Asked for her opinion that opposing factions in the African National Congress (ANC) were fighting over turf in Parliament, she said it was “rubbish”.

“That’s utter nonsense. We are all leaders here in our own right. And we are all members of the ruling party. No reasonable person would act against his political party mandate. We are here. We compliment each other… So there’s nothing like that.”

Sentiments echoed by Bongo, who said the narrative that he and others been deployed as a counterbalance Ramaphosa’s executive are false.

“We come from the ANC, a unitary organisation. It operates by taking resolutions based on the majority of members. We elected the president and we are all rallying behind him. And we are supporting him,” Bongo said.

During the day’s nominations and elections ANC Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina monitored meetings involving contentious chairpersons closely.

Especially after the Democratic Alliance (DA) announced on Monday it would use every parliament rule to oppose the elections of certain chairpersons.

“There’s nothing wrong for any party to object and bring a new name. But there’s a majority here. So the majority has voted for the chairperson,” Majodina said.

”They (the DA) have a right of freedom of speech. But we have deployed our capable comrades. If there is anything that may come out of any of out chairpersons that are under investigation. Then the ANC will act accordingly.”

Majodina also explained why it’s first-choice for Basic Education Committee Chairperson Zukisa Faku was withdrawn from a list of chairperson’s at the eleventh hour.

Faku, a former Buffalo City mayor, and a recent deployee to the National Assembly, was convicted on nine counts of fraud emanating from her misuse of the metro’s official credit card and sentenced to three years’ house arrest and community service in 2016.

“If Member A has a pending appeal, we have to give that member time to go get a progress report on that appeal. We had given a member up until Thursday evening, there was no update. So it was only fair on the ANC not to put itself in a corner but to withdraw that member. If anything comes that clears that member, then we will see,” Majodina said. 

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