Lets's Set the Record Straight on the "ANC Poodles"
'The public accounts committee has become
yet another platform for the DP to continue with its policy of opposing
everything the ANC does'
The Sunday Times article "ANC poodles obey
their master's voice" (March 4) asserted that ANC members of the standing
committee on public accounts came under pressure to fall in line after
executives in the form of President Thabo Mbeki and Deputy President Jacob Zuma
had stepped into the fray.
This is not true. Neither the President nor the
Deputy President has exerted any pressure on members to fall in line. In fact,
our position is that the investigation into the arms deal must be thorough,
transparent and beyond reproach. I also fail to understand the justification for
using the headline. There was no reference in the copy to "ANC
poodles" being instructed to obey their masters. Was it a case of personal
bias or even prejudice creeping in?
Let's set the record straight on committees of
No committee is independent. Political parties
are represented on committees in some proportion to their representation in the
National Assembly. Despite having 64.4% of the seats in the National Assembly,
the ANC representation on the public accounts committee is less than this. Why?
Because we want the smaller parties to be represented and thereby ensure that
the voice of the electorate they represent is heard.
Members of committees are accountable to their parties. Any party can change its representation if it feels it wants a stronger voice. This was the reason the Democratic Party changed its team on the public accounts committee. According to Douglas Gibson, this was done to beef up DP representation.
Now the committee has become yet another platform
for the DP to continue with its policy of opposing everything the ANC does.
The issue considered at the meeting the article refers to was whether the intention of the National Assembly had been that Judge Willem Heath should be part of the investigation into arms procurement.
This was largely an academic exercise.
First, in her appearance before the committee,
the Speaker, Frene Ginwala, said her interpretation of the resolution was that
the Special Investigating Unit should not be involved. The parliamentary law
advisers supported her. Despite this, certain parties insisted on debating the
matter. Obviously, they wanted to gain political mileage.
ANC members on the committee felt that it had far
too much oversight work to perform on the arms deal as well as on other
Auditor-General's reports. The ANC tried to accommodate these parties by
suggesting that parties agree to disagree on the intention. Both the chairman of
the committee and the DP rejected this proposal.
The only way out of the impasse was to vote, as
it was important that the matter be resolved so that the committee could examine
the evidence relating to the arms deal.
As for the reference to the so-called Nel
commission, the article gives the impression that the only matter worthy of
Parliament's attention in the Public Protector's 200-page report was the issue
of Minister Penuell Maduna's statements. The fact of the matter is that Maduna
had not only apologised but withdrawn his remarks about the then
Auditor-General. The committee chaired by Nel was faced with the question of
whether there was any provision which would enable Parliament to sanction a
member further after he had withdrawn his remarks and apologised. The committee
was placed in the invidious position of having to be judge, jury, prosecutor,
executioner and lawmaker.
Not wanting to set any precedents in matters
dealing with important constitutional issues, the committee, not surprisingly,
declined to wear all these hats.
The Sunday Times article makes much of the ANC
using its majority and suggests that the report was steamrollered through the
committee. But it ignores the fact that the DP had tabled its so-called minority
report before the committee formally had any report.
Far from betraying the Constitution, the
committee has come forward with constructive proposals for finding proper
solutions to these matters.
Cruywagen is the spokesman for ANC chief whip
With acknowledgement to Dennis Cruywagen and the Sunday Times.