The ANC backbenches in Parliament are set to look quite different after the 8 May elections as the governing party’s public representative candidates national list, for example, has ditched all but seven of its 38 committee chairs. In contrast, the front rows in the House, traditionally taken by ministers and their deputies, retain a large measure of continuity as the ANC national list gives top spots to many in the current Cabinet. But the backbenches appear to be cleared to make space for premiers, MECS and one-time labour federation leaders.
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While there is no guaranteed direct link between a high ranking on election lists and a job in the executive, it is a tradition that goes back a few elections.
That could create headaches for President Cyril Ramaphosa, although these may be solved with the reorganisation of the executive, largely understood to mean significant trimming of the 70-odd ministers and their deputies, as he announced in his 2018 State of the Nation Address.
Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, who left her former Water and Sanitation portfolio some R6-billion in the red, is in 10th place on the list. At 14 is Minister in the Presidency for Women Bathabile Dlamini and at 23 the former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba, both of whom courts have found to have lied.
The governing ANC at the weekend said it noted “concerns raised in the media about some of the candidates on our lists”, but in a statement maintained that “(t)he mere public mention of wrongdoing and corruption by an individual does not make that person guilty, unless due process is followed. The same considerations apply internally. All candidates were subjected to a democratic process by branches.”
But it’s not necessarily just about the Cabinet. Other controversial people, much lower on the national list, but eminently electable unless the ANC has an electoral meltdown, are headed for Parliament — the sphere of state with the constitutional responsibility of oversight of the executive and state entities, a crucial say in nominating the SABC board and many of the heads of Chapter 9 institutions established in the Constitution to support democracy.
Former communications minister, now ANC MP Faith Muthambi is at 79 on the national list despite being fingered for providing Cabinet information to the Guptas, as revealed in the #GuptaLeak emails, and sharply criticised for her actions by the 2016 parliamentary SABC inquiry. The ANC national list also includes(at 75) ANC MP Mosebenzi Zwane, the former mineral resources minister whose role in the Gupta purchase of the Optimum mine has again emerged before the Zondo State Capture commission.
Muthambi and Zwane stayed on in Parliament after losing their Cabinet posts in early 2018 — members of the executive must be MPs, with the president allowed to appoint just two from outside Parliament — but have seldom been seen in the parliamentary corridors. In contrast, David Mahlobo, the ex-state security minister, who is in 28th place on the national list, has been visible also as a speaker in several debates. Two other former Jacob Zuma administration ministers are on the comeback trail as MPs: Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who had been central in the push for nuclear, is at 74th on the list and Dipuo Peters, the former transport minister, is at 92.
The way the ANC does its lists of public representatives is that the national, strictly speaking, the national-to-national list, is topped up from the province-to-national list. That’s after the top 20 on the national list — that’s from Ramaphosa to Thandi Modise, the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) chairperson — which is untouchable.
Complicated? Sure. But not unfathomable, even if some informed speculation is involved in the absence of the election results.
If the ANC returns with 60% support in the 8 May poll, that would translate to about 234 seats in the National Assembly — a seat is roughly 40,000 votes depending on turn-out — and changes are that those listed to around 105 on the national-to-national list will make it. The cut-off is at around 105 because the national-to-national list is topped up from the ANC province-to-national list.
For example, police committee chairperson Francois Beukman is at 199, and basically unelectable unless the ANC gets just about 100% polling support. Long-standing ANC MP Yunus Carrim, who after a stint in the executive returned to the national legislature to chair the Standing Committee on Finance is at 148, and veteran ANC MP and trade and industry committee chairperson Joan Fubbs fell off the list completely.
The implication for Parliament is that, effectively, the ANC has wiped out a swathe of institutional memory and understanding of the parliamentary process, protocol, proceedings and traditions often dating back to 1994 or 1999. The ANC may well argue, as it does, about the need for a generational and gender mix alongside capability and skill, but Parliament — from lawmaking to oversight — is a complex, detailed and demanding environment if the national legislature is to live up to its responsibilities.
In contrast, the EFF returns its current cohort of MPs — with a few changes such as the inclusion of advocate Dali Mpofu in third place after leader Julius Malema and his deputy Floyd Shivambu. And the DA also largely returns its MPs, and with that experience and the tried and tested — former policy boss Gwen Ngwenya is back at 23rd spot, with the inclusion of new blue blood, including DA communications executive Siviwe Gwarube in 32nd spot on the national list.
The ANC national list returns to Parliament the following committee chairpersons, although not into those positions, which would only be finalised by the new ANC parliamentary caucus: At 21st, Joe Maswanganyi, the former transport minister, now public service and administration committee chairperson; Nocawe Mafu (human settlements) ranked 33; Hlengiwe Mkhize (communications) at 68; Beauty Dlulane, the sports committee chairperson who’s been an ANC MP since 2003, at 83; Fikile Majola (energy) at 93; Zet Luzipo (mineral resources) at 98 and Dikeledi Magadzi (transport) at 99.
The ANC national list also returns to Parliament all but one of the presiding officers: House Chairperson Thoko Didiza in 12th place, with National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete at 44, her deputy Lechesa Tsenoli at 104, and House Chairperson Mmatlala Boroto at 87th spot. House Chairperson Cedric Frolick is at 14 on the Eastern Cape to national list.
ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu is placed at 24 on the national list, a little after Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, who is at 22.
ANC backbencher Tandi Mahambehlala, who returned to Parliament 2018 after a stint as a deputy minister, is 49th on the list. A handful of other current ANC MPs are high enough on the province-to-national list to make it back also, including Peace Mabe (Gauteng), Nomalungelo Gina (KwaZulu-Natal) and Zukisa Faku (Eastern Cape).
However, the ANC has dropped many, if not most current MPs. This includes not only most committee chairpersons, but also veterans such as Nyami Booi, who has held various positions on the ANC parliamentary benches, or Zukiswa Rantho, who led the parliamentary State Capture inquiry into Eskom that laid out important work the Zondo commission is now traversing also.
Many of the now-emptied seats on the ANC parliamentary benches are for newcomers from the provinces, including four former and current premiers, several MECs and two ex-Cosatu leaders.
And many of the newcomers double up also ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) members, such as Ronald Lamoela, the governing party’s point man on expropriation without compensation, ranked 5th, David Masondo, the former Limpopo finance MEC at 19 of the top 20 on the national list, and Sibongile Besani, a former Free State ANC secretary and current NEC member now at 89.
Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle is 39th on the national list to Parliament, followed by former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo at 58, Northern Cape premier Sylvia Lucas at 76, with former Eastern Cape premier and provincial legislature speaker Noxolo Kieviet ranked at 42.
Former Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini, also an ANC NEC member, on whose watch Cosatu splintered amid ANC factional battles, is ranked at 46. His former first deputy James Tyotyo is at 71.
The perhaps best-known MEC to come to Parliament is Gauteng’s finance MEC Barbara Creecy, positioned at 53, if only because of speculation late in 2018 that she’d be the next finance minister after Nhlanhla Nene’s resignation. Eastern Cape Co-operative Governance MEC Fikile Xasa, also an ANC NEC member, is at 52, while Eastern Cape public works MEC Pemmy Majodina is ranked 40th on the national list. Alvin Botes, the former Northern Cape social development MEC, cleared of corruption, unlike his party boss John Block, came to Parliament in 2018 and is set to return given his 56th place on the national list.
The ANC has taken a gamble by significantly changing its national list of public representatives to Parliament, although how much of this had to do with ANC factional politicking has yet to clearly emerge.
For the ANC the outcome will be largely, although not completely, new backbenches in Parliament that must rise to the experience and nous of the DA and EFF, which both have chosen to mostly stay with experienced MPs. Potentially, this could give them the edge over the ANC, especially if the governing party’s fall-back position — it’s numerical dominance — falters in the 8 May poll.
How the next Parliament, the sixth in democratic South Africa, will unfold, only time will tell. DM
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