Congress of the People (COPE) leader Mosiuoa Lekota says Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete’s explanation that the ruling of the Constitutional Court showed that Parliament “did nothing wrong except one little thing” is totally disingenuous and mischievous.
Lekota said Mbete’s responses to questions at Sunday’s press briefing on the Constitutional Court’s judgment on the Nkandla saga lacked honesty and‚ more dangerously‚ was attempting to second-guess the court.
He charged that since 2014 Mbete had failed to act in the best tradition of an impartial Speaker and leader of the legislature.
“Again and again she has attempted to be part of the executive rather than a credible leader of the legislature. Her rulings and pronouncements reveal how little she understands the Constitution and how indifferent she is to allowing a robust and unfettered scrutiny of the President.
“The fact that the National Assembly acted in a manner inconsistent with the Constitution is a very serious indictment of her and of the ANC caucus. She should have been distraught about that pronouncement against parliament by the Chief Justice. Unfortunately‚ she has sought to minimise the chastisement. She and the ANC caucus broke the law. That is official. Consequences should now follow‚” Lekota asserted.
“In as much as Zuma messed up the executive arm of government‚ she has fully messed up the legislative arm of government. Furthermore‚ the fact that the National Assembly has become a circus under her and that its credibility has been shot to pieces reflect that systemic rot which has set in under her. It was not just a simple‚ single blight‚” Lekota added.
He noted that the Chief Justice had pointed out that the National Assembly “is the watchdog of State resources‚ the enforcer of fiscal discipline and cost-effectiveness for the common good of all our people”.
“This obligation should have been made manifest. It wasn’t‚” said Lekota.
“Instead of upholding this obligation to which she was solemnly sworn‚ she used her position as ANC chair and National Assembly Speaker to shield the President as much as she could. In the view of the Chief Justice parliament had to act as ‘the mouthpiece‚ the eyes and the service-delivery-ensuring machinery of the people’.
“Instead of being the champion of the people‚ she became Zuma’s champion and allowed a whole string of irregularities to occur. In principle‚ as the Chief justice pointed out‚ parliament had to serve as ‘an irreplaceable feature of good governance in South Africa’. The question of good governance was never her priority at any stage.
“Instead of acting independently and courageously as the Public Protector or the Chief Justice have done‚ she took no issue whatsoever with the National Assembly when it resolved ‘to absolve the President of compliance with the remedial action instead of facilitating its enforcement as was expected by the Public Protector. It is on this basis that it failed to fulfil its constitutional obligations to hold him accountable’‚” Lekota stated.
He said an impartial and principled Speaker of the National Assembly would have represented all views in the Assembly and would have done everything necessary to hold the President accountable.
“Everyone knew where her sympathy lay and Zuma counted on her‚ as he did on Nhleko‚ to exonerate him completely. They did just that.
“Her failures as Speaker have been many. Unlike her predecessors‚ she put Zuma ahead of the people’s representatives. She corrupted parliament. She blurred the margins of the separation of powers. Under Baleka Mbete‚ the bigger part of the legislature never asserted itself as a robust and independent arm of government. The legislature was commandeered by the executive and she permitted it‚” Lekota asserted.