Questions around the validity of the Nkandla ad-hoc committee's work to be reported on in November have been raised after opposition party MPs lost 90 to 180 over a motion to have President Jacob Zuma make an appearance in front of this platform.
The opposition argues this flies in the face of the Constitution. Does the National Assembly have a constitutional mandate to call the President before the Committee? Executive Secretary at the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, Lawson Naidoo spells out this constitutional prerogative:
In terms of the Constitution, the President is accountable to the National Assembly. The National Assembly then has the right - and one would argue the obligation - to hold the President to account before the Assembly, for matters that Parliament believes he should address.
Naidoo weighs on on the importance of respecting the office of the Public Protector:
The Office of the Public Protector is a constitutionally independent office, set up as an independent agency, providing oversight over all aspects of state organs in South Africa - with the exception of the courts - and in order to be respected in its independence, its findings need to be respected and implemented. If they are to be challenged - particularly if they are being challenged by the bodies that they are reporting on - then it makes a mockery of their independence.
Without speculating on reasons behind the ANC's decision, Naidoo further emphasises why President Zuma's appearance is crucial:
I'm not sure they (the ANC) are dealing with intricate legal issues. The reason why it is necessary for the President to account to Parliament in this case is because the Public Protector made a finding that the President was in breach of Executive Members Ethics Act, and it is only the Public Protector that can make that finding. As the body that must call the President to account, Parliament must call on the President to account on that finding. In his written response, the President has ignored that finding from the Public Protector's report.
What further steps are there take for the opposition to hold the President to account? Naidoo thinks there are none, for now, until the current committee presents its first report:
There's nothing that the opposition can now do, the House has now taken a decision and we assume that the Committee will now continue its work without the opposition members of Parliament in that committee and will make a report to the Assembly of the newly-revised date of the 14th of November. We will then have to see what recommendations that report contains before anyone decides what further action to take.
This article first appeared on 702 : Nkandla Ad Hoc Committee Continues Work Despite Opposition Bow-Out