PARLIAMENT

ANC caucus plays musical chairs to a somewhat discordant tune

By Marianne Merten 3 September 2021

Suspended director-general of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Kgabo Mahoai. (Photo: Sebabatso Mosamo/Sunday Times) | Former Finance Minister Tito Mboweni. (Photo: Leila Dougan) | Former Minister of Health, Dr. Zwelini Mkhize. (Photo: Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo) | Former State Security Minister Bongani Bongo. (Photo: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

Two former ministers who have become backbenchers, one stepped-aside committee chairperson finally formally relieved of duties, and some curious swaps. The qualitative impact of the ANC parliamentary caucus reshuffle remains unclear.

Marianne Merten

“It is my personal and political decision to stay on as an MP,” is ANC MP Tito Mboweni’s text reply to a request for comment. The former finance minister’s resignation from Cabinet had been long predicted when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on 5 August he had granted Mboweni’s wish.  

This week Mboweni attended the first meeting of the water and sanitation committee which ANC Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina assigned him to. But it was a brief meeting to elect ANC MP Robert Mashego as committee chairperson.

Also seemingly missing in committee action was ANC MP Zweli Mkhize, the former health minister. He seemed to have missed the 30-minute human settlements committee meeting called to elect ANC MP Rosina Semenya as chairperson. 

Mkhize is joined on the human settlements committee by another former Cabinet minister, advocate Mike Masutha, who held the justice portfolio, but did not make it back after the May 2019 elections, being too low on the ANC lists. Masutha was also sent to the rules committee. 

The caucus reshuffle was triggered by the appointment to the executive of committee chairpersons and ANC MPs Mondli Gungubele (social development), Philly Mapulane (higher education) and Sibongiseni Dhlomo (health) as minister and deputy ministers, alongside fellow ANC MPs Nobuhle Nkabane and Chana Majake-Pilane. Several vacancies were also filled. 

By next week everyone should have settled in nicely. 

Not needing such a transition was ANC MP Bongani Bongo, the former state security minister, as he had shifted to the back benches in May after stepping aside. That was after he was charged and appeared in court for another corruption trial. The previously acting home affairs chairperson, Mosa Chabane, was installed as permanent chairperson this week. 

Elected as higher education committee chairperson was Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, the former #FeesMustFall activist and Wits University students’ representative council president. She has served on that committee since coming to Parliament in the May 2019 elections. 

ANC MP Tandi Mahambehlala, once a deputy minister in the Jacob Zuma administration, was moved from chairing the international relations committee, which has been razor-sharp in its criticism of both the department and Minister Naledi Pandor, a Ramaphosa ally once mooted as his CR17 deputy. Central to this criticism were strong rebukes over various overseas property deals.

Suspended Dirco Director-General Kgabo Mahoai was recently found guilty of gross misconduct relating to a New York property project. 

Mahambehlala is associated with the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) grouping in the ANC parliamentary caucus. In her last official statement before the move to chair the parliamentary tourism committee, she slated the last-minute apology by Pandor and the acting director-general for not appearing before the committee.

Mahambehlala is now chairing tourism, whose previous chair, Supra Mahumapelo, took Mahambehlala’s former post at the helm of the international relations committee. A Teflon politician, the former North West premier, even though closely associated with the RET ANC faction, has to date rebuffed most if not all rebukes, including a five-year suspension the North West ANC disciplinary committee tried to impose on him in late June. 

Fellow RET supporter Faith Muthambi — she made more than one appearance at ex-president Jacob Zuma’s court cases — is no longer chair of the cooperative governance committee, taking instead the chair at the environmental affairs committee. 

It’s a curious move, as the cooperative governance committee MPs had formed cross-party political bonds and were working well together, not cutting any corners in oversight. And if that meant working the 7pm to 10pm Zoom slot at night, it was done.  

At least until someone complained, and Majodina and the House Chairperson for Committees, Cedric Frolick, got involved.  

The writing has been on the wall since then. 

DA Chief Whip Natasha Mazzone criticised the committee chairpersons’ appointment, saying they represented “a mixture between RET foot soldiers and disgraced former premiers and ministers”. 

Interestingly, the Freedom Front Plus seemed to give the benefit of the doubt to newly elected health committee chairperson Kenny Jacobs. 

The ANC parliamentary caucus changes were published in a most unusual format — it resembled more an internal political working document — in the Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports (ATC), or Parliament’s record of work.

It’s unclear why the changes for the National Assembly were published like that. The National Council of Provinces (NCOP), in the same ATC of 27 August, published its changes in the traditional format of discharged/appointed. 

NCOP Eastern Cape delegate Zukiswa Ncitha is no longer chairperson of the petitions and executive undertakings committee, a post she had until now kept after months earlier stepping aside from her provincial party political duties for being accused of fraud.

That committee is now chaired by ANC NCOP Eastern Cape delegate Zolani Mkiva — a recipient of the national Order of Ikhamanga in Silver, according to the Presidency, with an email address Parliament gives as [email protected] 

Ncitha, a former Buffalo City Metro mayor, is one of the 14 accused in the Nelson Mandela funeral corruption case, which after years of delay is set to start in the high court on 5 October.

According to the ANC parliamentary caucus reshuffle, Ncitha now serves on the NCOP committees of appropriation and finance. DM

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  • This guy Sibongiseni Dhlomo was a mess here in KZN – up to all sorts of irregular antics which included the debacle around the historic McCords Hospital. How can he be in national government? No, seriously!

  • It is discordant and concerning. The #CR22 strategy is now in question, since the drive to stamp out corruption appears to be compromised considering these moves. This also highlights a swing in prioritizing governance for the party, before country.

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