Lack of trust “renders Parliament dysfunctional”
Eminent political personalities – including two former parliamentary speakers – have criticised the degeneration of Parliament‚ warning that it could encourage social conflict especially in the coming local elections.
This came out during a private round-table discussion hosted last week by the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac)‚ a non-governmental organisation that focuses on constitutional matters.
Former speakers Frene Ginwala and Max Sisulu were part of the unprecedented gathering of leaders with a deep understanding of Parliament and South Africa’s constitutional framework.
Other participants were Cathy Albertyn‚ Firoz Cachalia‚ Richard Calland‚ Hugh Corder‚ Judith February‚ Kasper Hahndiek‚ Sindiso Mfenyana‚ Lawson Naidoo‚ Sybil Seaton‚ Raenette Taljaard‚ Ben Turok and Leon Wessels.
Ginwala was the first speaker of a democratic South African Parliament while Sisulu held the position between 2009 and 2014. Both were respected by all political parties‚ while the current presiding officers have come under heavy criticism for their alleged partiality.
The scathing criticism of the state of Parliament comes amid heightened tensions largely between the ruling African National Congress and the Economic Freedom Fighters over “Nkandlagate”.
In a statement‚ Naidoo‚ Casac executive secretary‚ said: “There is a distinct trust-deficit between the political parties in Parliament which is rendering the institution dysfunctional.”
This “trust-deficit”‚ he said‚ had led to parties being “over-zealous and combative in their dealings” with one another while rigorous debate on substantive issues had often been eschewed for political skirmishes.
The gathering‚ he said‚ warned that “parties need to consider that conflict in Parliament may have unintended consequences in terms of social conflict‚ especially at election times”.
Naidoo said “repeated encroachments” by the executive in parliamentary processes and business – something that undermined Parliament’s independence — were also observed by participants.
The meeting agreed that there should be more research on how to solve the issues bedevilling Parliament‚ and as result‚ Casac would approach key players such as party chief whips in Parliament with their suggestions.
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