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Speech by ANC MP Jullian Killian on Budget Vote 2: Parliament

30 May 2017

Chairperson, Hon Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Ministers, Colleagues, Guests in the gallery, fellow South Africans

The National Assembly's the most representative arm of government and (in terms of section 42(3) ".. is elected to represent the people and to ensure government by the people under the Constitution. It does this by choosing the President, by providing a national forum for public consideration of issues, by passing legislation and by scrutinizing and overseeing executive action."

This is the House where we need to debate matters of national importance and engage on the many challenges facing our nation. This is where we should discuss how we should overcome the legacies of colonial and apartheid rule, the scourge of the brutal assault on and murder of women and children currently engulfing our country; how we could together solve the inequalities and intergenerational poverty that vast sections of our population face.

As representatives of the nation, we should know where the deficiencies in the delivery of services are AND who we should hold accountable for the governance failures. This is the House where we should assess the performance against set targets of all delivery arms of government and where we should expose mismanagement and corruption - wherever it occurs and whoever is involved. This is the House where we should encourage sound governance practices but also insist on consequence management for all those in the public service who fail our nation. This is where we should not hesitate to take action and punish those guilty of gross financial mismanagement in terms of the provisions of the Public Finance Management Act. But this is also where we should give credit to leaders and individuals in the public sector who are committed to service delivery excellence.

We need to ensure that all state entities respect the Constitutional rights of our people and that they operate on the basis of the founding values of our Constitution. Our mandate includes the duty to ensure that we have value for money government - a role that SCOPA performs very well. However, portfolio committees have a critical role to fulfil to follow through on the AG Reports and SCOPA findings. Ultimately, this House must ensure that ALL ORGANS OF STATE comply with Section 217 of the Constitution, which reads: "When an organ of state in the national, provincial of local sphere of government, or any other institution identified in national legislation, contracts for goods or services, it must do so in accordance with a system which is fair, equitable, transparent and cost-effective.

And we should not hesitate to expose and follow through with criminal charges any person who shows contempt for Parliament - from public officials who mislead Parliament to members of the public that disrupt meetings - the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislature Act is there. We must charge people for perjury if they mislead this House - Also those who disrupt Parliament. The Constitution makes provision for limitations of entry.

My colleague, Hon Smith will elaborate further.

CONSTITUTION & NA RULES:

Before MP's may perform their functions as members of the National Assembly, they must each in their individual capacity swear or affirm faithfulness to the country and obedience to the Constitution, in terms of Schedule 2 of the Constitution. The founding provisions of the Constitution lists the values espoused by the Constitution.

By pledging to uphold the Constitution, it follows logically that we also pledge to respect the different democratic institutions and democratic procedures and practices created in the Constitution. It also follows logically that since the NA Rules derive its authority from section 57 of the Constitution - and must comply with the constitutional values and principles enshrined in the Constitution - that we have all signed to uphold the NA Rules.

The 9th Edition of the NA Rules was adopted a little more than a year ago - on 26 May 2016. The new Rules were adopted after a fully inclusive and very extensive revision of the NA Rules was conducted. The Rules Review stretched over a period of more than 3 years. Although much progress was made by the end of the 4th Parliament, the Rules Committee insisted that the Review Subcommittee again work through all rules - from Rule 1 to rule 367 - to allow new parties in the NA to be part of the process.

Despite participation of most parties, the practical application of the new NA Rules was however only partially successful. This is because some parties either refuse to accept the role of the Speaker and other presiding officers, or it is because they regard this House as a platform to launch their election campaigns.

It is regrettable that some MPs disregard the NA Rules as well as this institution's established practices and conventions - with impunity.

Rather than respecting this institution as a cornerstone of democracy and showing respect for the offices created by the Constitution - the office of the President, Deputy President, Speaker, Deputy Speaker - the 5th Parliament has seen several deliberate disruptions by opposition members - which point to a complete disrespect for the Constitution and the constitutional democracy.

Some MPs unfortunately shun Parliamentary practices and orders and repeatedly challenge rulings of presiding officers without following the procedures laid down in the Rules. They continue to disrupt Sittings of the House - even to the extent of assaulting the Parliamentary Protection Services and vandalising the buildings of Parliament.

These MPs should be charged criminally and should pay for the repair of parliamentary buildings. Students are charged if they are doing the same, why should MPs go scott-free?

The disruptive conduct in the public gallery and in public hearings and committee meetings originated right here in this House. We need firm action - both here and in the rest of the Parliamentary precinct.

Chairperson - let me now deal with EFF's coalition partners, the Democratic Alliance:

You would have expected the DA Leadership to play a more mature role - as the Official Opposition. After all, the party boasts that it has been founded in the old Liberal Party of South Africa and as such has a long association with Parliamentary traditions.

In fact, the DA indeed modelled its own operations on Westminster Parliamentary traditions, which I will elaborate on a little later. However, the DA regrettably also shows complete disdain for parliamentary practices and democratic traditions.

Despite a convention and practice in the Parliaments of well-established democracies that Members raise when the Speaker or other Presiding Officers enter the chamber, the DA lately deliberately sit down when the Speaker enters. Why? Because they dislike the Speaker. They do the same with the President, refusing to honour a long established convention in the National Assembly, to rise when those office bearers enter a sitting of the National Assembly or a Joint Sitting. This shows how immature the Official Opposition of this country is - they cannot differentiate between the OFFICE OF THE SPEAKER and the individual who assumes the role. The same principle applies to the office of the President.

This is really disrespectful and immature, because it shows disrespect, not for the incumbents, but for the offices and consequently for the Constitution. The Hon Leader of the Opposition can be forgiven for not understanding these parliamentary conventions, although he apparently feels so completely in charge of opposition politics that he has now extended his reach to other countries in SADEC.!!!

This, Chairperson, shows to what extent the DA has lost institutional memory. It appears that there is nobody left in the DA to point out what the impact of their actions is. This does not only amount to contempt of Parliament, it amounts to disrespect for the Constitution.

All parties and members should respect the practices and conventions of our 23-year-old democratic institutions - irrespective of who the incumbents of those offices are. You cannot call yourself the Democratic Alliance if you do not respect the outcomes of elections.

If you want to contest elections to become government, fulfil your opposition role within the Rules of the National Assembly. Why break down practices and conventions of the Assembly that you will have to rebuild if and when one day you become a coalition partner in government? This conduct more than anything else shows that you don't believe your own propaganda that you will govern in 2019.

Chairman, the DA's conduct does not make sense, because Hon Maimane's party has actually adopted some British parliamentary traditions in their party's operations. The DA calls their portfolio committee spokespersons "Shadow-Ministers" - just like the Labour and the Tories do when they are in the opposition benches. So why disrespect our parliamentary practices if you import Westminster practices in your party?

Chairperson, these are however not the only contradictions in their practices and policies.

The DA - the once proud vestige of liberal political philosophy - opportunistically abandons liberalism (when it suits their Leader and some MP's here during debate) - and they don the cloak of new liberal social democrats. Yes, the former champions of free market liberalism, every so often masquerade as proponents of socialist policies including government intervention in the economy. Instead of publicly advocating "limited government intervention" leaving job creation to the private sector - which is in line with the principles of a liberal party - the DA now promises jobs left right and centre. But this is a charade. The DA has not adjusted their policies and has not adopted a new political ideology. Their policies remain firmly grounded in liberal values, the so-called " Open opportunity society " philosophy. And they remain a loyal member of the international body of liberal parties - Liberal International.

Some advice for the DA: Don't just opportunistically copy and paste from ANC policies when you debate here - to play to the gallery. If you want the public to trust you, come out of the closet: Tell South Africans and the world that you have changed your political philosophy, that you have come to realise that free market liberalism will not provide an open opportunity society! And sever your ties with Liberal International to join Socialist International.

If you want to be all things for all people, you will become nothing for nobody!

Perhaps, Chairperson, we are too harsh on the DA. The party is facing a number of serious challenges: Its different caucuses each want to reposition the DA - where they see fit.

The old liberals feel alienated and feel that Premier Zille is being persecuted for being a liberal; the independent democrats feel their votes catapulted the DA into the majority position in several councils in the Western Cape and now their Leader Ms Patricia De Lille is being vilified by the liberals; members of their black caucus back the Leader Maimane and insist that he acts decisively against Ms Zille, and the conservative elements - a sizable chunk of the DA's support base - feel that the DA's Interim Leader in the Western Cape should be removed. They feel his lavish birthday bash - sponsored by construction companies and hosted in the One and Only Hotel - has brought the party in disrepute.

In addition all is not well in paradise with their coalition partners. The DA/UDM coalition in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality is under severe strain. Despite conflict resolution efforts, it seems the cracks are already becoming more pronounced. For now it appears that the DA/EFF coalitions in Gauteng metros are relatively stable. The DA Leader has apparently managed to cool down the hot heads of the EFF leadership who threatened to withdraw from the coalitions if Premier Zille is not axed for her pro-colonial tweets. The Hon Leader of the Opposition is certainly between a rock and a hard place - Premier Zille and her liberal clique and Hon Malema and his radicals - we pity him!

Does Parliament have teeth?

To return to the issue of perjury. All portfolio committees have experienced discomfort with false or inaccurate information presented by individuals and departments. We need additional capacity to scrutinise budget allocations and compare presentations with the findings of the Auditor General. If we fail to tighten the loose ends and expose poor performance, we will be failing in our constitutional oversight role.

The institution needs to be further capacitated to ensure that attempts to mislead Parliament are exposed - not only within a term of office, but also from one term to the other. It has become abundantly clear that many SOE's have no respect for this institution. The contempt displayed by SABC officials during the Ad hoc committee proceedings was disconcerting. Other Departments and SOE's do the same but with a little more finesse.

The sooner Parliament moves to open a criminal case of perjury against those fingered in the Ad Hoc Committee Report, the better. We will not be respected until we take firm action.

Similarly, in terms of the Constitution and the Rules of the NA, Parliament can and must take action against any person who disrupts proceedings of a committee or the National Assembly. We may impose restrictions on access of specific individuals of the public who have misbehaved.

Chairperson, in conclusion:

Notwithstanding a divisive past where colonialism and apartheid left deep scars on the national psyche, the National Assembly has over two decades overcome major political differences and distrust and developed its own unique parliamentary debating culture.

This is an important window showcasing our nation's soul and ability to tackle the major challenges facing our nation - challenges of inequality, poverty, poor education outcomes and violence against women and children. Many of these challenges don't require public spats between the opposition and the governing party. Contributing to a two-nation reality.

Let us engage about these challenges - with reason rather than through insulting one another, or through violence, with practical solutions for our budget limitations.

Let us continue to create a respectful platform for debate so that communities can follow the example set in this House rather than vandalise public facilities.

The Westminster debating culture must make way for a new South African debating culture - grounded in the constitution's founding values of respect and dignity. Above all - let us differ on policy and on delivery issues, but let us do so within the NA Rules. Let us strengthen this institution to ensure that we build the democratic structures for generations to come.

     
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