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PARLIAMENT

Steenhuisen: ANC should play fair and give the Scopa chair to the DA

FILE PHOTO: Democratic Alliance Chief Whip John Steenhuisen speaks during the 2017 State of the Nation Address (SONA) debate at the National Assembly on February 14, 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Beeld / Jaco Marais)

After announcing its shadow cabinet for the sixth Parliament, the DA threw down the gauntlet to the ANC: it is agitating for the ruling party to follow the example it set in the Western Cape legislature by offering it the position of Scopa chair in Parliament.

The DA was gunning for the position of chair of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), the party made clear on Wednesday, 5 June 2019 at a briefing to announce its shadow cabinet for the sixth democratically elected Parliament.

I think they should be fair,” said DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen. He was referring to the offer by the majority DA in the Western Cape of the position of Scopa chair to the ANC in the province. The ANC’s Lulama Mvimbi will become provincial Scopa chair.

The DA is hoping the ANC will return the favour in choosing National Assembly MP Alf Lees to head Scopa. Its former chair, Themba Godi, did not gain enough votes with the African People’s Convention (APC) to return to Parliament.

In the DA’s new shadow cabinet, Lees, the former shadow minister for finance, was moved into Scopa, alongside Benedicta van Minnen as his deputy.

We believe that he’d (Lees) make an excellent Scopa chair,” said Steenhuisen. The committee’s oversight role of public finances was “fast becoming important”.

Lees was on Scopa from June 2014 to June 2015, before moving to the Standing Committee on Finance, where he remained until the lapse of the fifth Parliament ahead of the 2019 national and provincial elections.

Scopa is Parliament’s oversight committee on public funds, which holds government departments and entities to account for the money that is allocated through the Treasury. It is a powerful position and unlike other parliamentary committees, is traditionally not held by not the majority political party, but rather by an opposition MP. Former chair Themba Godi had been Scopa chair since 2005.

The DA announced its shadow cabinet a fortnight before the State of the Nation address, provisionally scheduled for 20 June 2019. The main opposition party comes into the sixth Parliament four seats weaker than the fifth Parliament.

Party leader Mmusi Maimane described the shadow cabinet as a combination of youth and experience. It includes:

  • DA Youth Leader Luyolo Mphithi as a shadow minister in the presidency of women, youth and persons with disabilities.
  • Party communications director Siviwe Gwarube as shadow health minister.
  • Party veteran Dianne Kohler Barnard moves from the police to become the new shadow minister for state security.
  • Finance ministry goes to Geordin Hill-Lewis, his deputy is Dr Dion George.
  • Transport shadow minister is Chris Hunsinger, his deputy is Thami Mabhena.
  • Phumzile van Damme remains shadow minister of communications and telecommunications with Cameron Mackenzie as her deputy.

Maimane described the DA’s caucus as “really with a profound focus to demonstrate that the DA is the only alternative for South Africans”.

The shadow cabinet will meet Maimane bi-weekly, with the party leader stating:The purpose of these meetings will be to discuss the upcoming legislative agenda; to deliberate on new policies, debates, and motions; and to table any other matters.”

The full DA shadow cabinet is available here. DM

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