Mbeki ‘ashamed’ of Mashatile’s majoritarian blind spot

When Deputy President Paul Mashatile told MPs last Thursday that the ANC would use its numbers in the house to vote as it pleases, his colleagues cheered, but elsewhere former president Thabo Mbeki was frowning.

Mbeki lampooned Mashatile in a leaked letter on Wednesday, saying while he gave a spontaneous response, “I hope that since then you have reflected on this whole exchange with the DA chief whip and seriously assessed your off-the-cuff comments”.

He continued: “I say this because it is virtually impossible to relate these comments to various long-established policy positions of the ANC.

“This I must also say, that it was very embarrassing, to the point of humiliation, that a message could be communicated to the public in such a glaring manner.”

Mbeki said in the eyes of the public, the DA appeared to be “the great champion and defender of our constitution; whereas the ANC is a determined and committed violator of that constitution”.

Mbeki added that the DA chief whip, Siviwe Gurube, had posed a legitimate question to Mashatile, especially in his capacity as the new leader of government business in parliament.

Gurube had asked: “What should be done about parliament’s constitutional obligation to investigate the head of state and government about the Phala Phala matter, as part of its duty to exercise oversight over the executive?”

Unfortunately, said Mbeki, “this direct question was not answered”.

“As you know, she was raising this because earlier you had pleaded for parliament to wait while other state institutions, such as the public protector, the Hawks, the Reserve Bank, and others are investigating the Phala Phala matter.”

The former president said there were two problems with Mashatile’s response.

“One of these is that parliament has an obligatory constitutional task to exercise oversight over the executive and obviously cannot delegate such oversight to the very same executive and/or its organs.

“The second of these is that our country is still grappling with the serious challenge that the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture [the Zondo Commission] documented the reality that various and many state institutions and organs were seriously corrupted during and through state capture.”

As we urge parliament to await the outcomes of the work of these same institutions and organs, Mbeki asked: “What evidence has government presented to parliament and the public at large, that these bodies have recovered from the grave damage they suffered?

“The bland statement that any majority party in the legislature has an unfettered democratic right to use its numbers to impose on the legislature whatever decision of its choice is very wrong, [and] the statement reflects what would happen if we were working within the situation of parliamentary sovereignty which the counter-revolution repeatedly argues for.

“As all of us know, ours is a constitutional democracy. Our fundamental law, the constitution, obliges everybody, including political parties, to operate within certain boundaries/limits.

“This means that even the majority parties in our legislatures are not free to use their numbers anyhow.”

Mbeki said that no political party, including the majority party, has a legal right to block the National Assembly from exercising its oversight over the executive.

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