President Zuma: Restore the independence of the NCOP or scrap it
6 November 2014
Note to Editors: This speech was delivered by DA Leader in the NCOP Elza van Lingen MP, at the Annual Address by the President of the South Africa to the NCOP in Parliament, Cape Town, Thursday, November 6 2014.
“Celebrating 20 years of a Democratic Parliament – together moving the NCOP forward as a vanguard of the interests of provinces” is exactly where the NCOP started off in 1997, under its first Chairperson, Naledi Pandor.
For the President and the members of his Cabinet who infrequently visit and who might not understand what the NCOP is required to do – Section 42(4) of the Constitution states that the NCOP represents the provinces to ensure that provincial interests are taken into account. It does this in two ways: firstly, by participating in the national legislative process. And secondly by providing a national forum for public consideration of issues affecting the provinces.
On this point, I am reminded of the words of the Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP who said in June 2014, that the NCOP is, and I quote:
“…there to revive oversight, represent the provinces and provide a check and balance to the National Assembly. It is not there to take instructions from political parties. It is there as a sphere of government accountable to the Constitution and the law. It’s very important for people to understand their mandate and not to go in there as if they are taking instructions from Luthuli House.”
One can only agree with these words by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille as she strives to assert the independence of this House and remind us all of the important duty that we have as Delegates to the NCOP.
It is a shame then, that this view is not held by all members of government.
As the NCOP, we are in a privileged position to influence and monitor national legislation that often finds a unique effect in each of our 9 provinces.
And now, after 17 years in this role, the time has come to ask ourselves whether this House is living up to its constitutional mandate?
Is this House working for the people of South Africa?
Or are we a destitute family, living in crumbling infrastructure with no head of House to lead by example?
Once a year, we sit and listen whilst the Honourable President pays lip service about the state of our nation, and conveniently side-steps the crumbling state of the provincial governments. And through this, year in and year out, he continues to display how he has lost touch with the provinces, and ultimately, the ability of the three spheres of government to deliver what he so easily promises.
The Honourable President continues to run from his responsibilities in the National Assembly, but he cannot hide here in the National Council. He must account to the people’s democratically elected representatives in the House that elected him.
He must also be mindful of the fact that, we, the members of the NCOP are the ones who directly account to the people of South Africa throughout the year for his government’s failures.
Through the various initiatives of the NCOP such as the ‘Parliament to the People’ programme and our provincial and oversight weeks, the NCOP is at the forefront of what government is doing on the ground. However, 17 years in and the NCOP is still largely unknown to ordinary South Africans. Our programmes have been usurped by the ANC in order to spread the ANC’s supposed “good story”. And in so doing, the ANC tries to lend the authority of this House to the failures of its government.
For instance, in our recent oversight visit to the Eastern Cape, we were led to the province’s prestige projects such as Zwide Clinic in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, and Motherwell Police Station and Magistrate Court. Meanwhile, the numerous failures of the provincial and local governments are hidden away from parliamentary scrutiny.
As delegates, we are expected to believe that dysfunctional municipalities and provincial governments are functional and delivering to the people of South Africa. Yet, just a short while later, we receive either media reports or independent investigations exposing a crisis in the area that could have been avoided if we were able to do our job in the first place. While we were in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, other critical issues were not addressed:
The Nelson Mandela Bay Metro’s Rapid Bus Transport System is one such example where R1.5 billion was spent – but there is not a single bus to show for it. Just last year R462 million was “spent” by this Metro, but it by-passed the regulatory Supply Chain Management processes and the mayor and municipal manager refused to authorize a forensic audit.
The Chetty and Missionvale Housing Project of 400 new houses without sewerage connections and the NMB Metro did not budget for it. How can we build houses without basic sanitation.
Just before the elections the ANC leadership promised the urgent funding of ±R400 million for the Nooitgedacht / Coega Low Level Water Scheme. And now there is silence and no delivery on the promise! With a pending drought this could cost thousands of job losses in the area.
Our work in the NCOP has become a farce! And it is like this in each of the ANC-led provinces! Our constitutional role has become less about ensuring that government delivers to our people and more about networking opportunities between ANC comrades – as one faction plots against the other.
Even when it comes to legislation, there is more than enough evidence to prove that the ANC bulldozes Bills through this House with a complete disregard for the provinces interests. Bills such as the Minerals and Petrolium Resources Development Amendment Bill in March 2014 made its passage through this House and the provinces in a record time of 13 days and not over the normal eight week cycle, but with absolutely no public participation hearings. The ANC’s flagrant disregard for the legislative process undermines this House, the Constitution and the people of South Africa as well.
Given the truly deplorable state of the NCOP, it cannot be described as a vanguard of the interests of provinces. It lacks both the authority and the credibility of that title.
As we sit here today, we must decide to either fight for the independence of this House so that it is able to fulfill its important constitutional role. But, if not, then we must scrap the NCOP entirely. The DA will not stand idly by and allow Luthuli House to corrupt yet another democratic institution for its own narrow political ends.
I thank you.
Issued by the DA, November 6 2014
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