ANC's Cedric Frolick elected as parliament house chair - but not without drama
The National Assembly has elected the ANC's Cedric Frolick, Grace Boroto and Madala Ntombela as house chairpersons - but their election did not go unchallenged.
The election of house chairpersons usually goes ahead without any drama, but there were some objections this time around – to one candidate and also to the ANC's decision to field only ANC MPs for the positions.
As soon as ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina tabled a motion for the house to elect the trio, DA chief whip John Steenhuisen tabled a counter-motion objecting to Frolick and instead proposing the DA's own Annelie Lotriet.
Steenhuisen said at the heart of the issues lay an important principle of multi-partyism, where MPs from all parties should be represented in parliamentary structures.
He spoke about a study tour that chief whips of different parties undertook during the course of the fifth parliament to the parliaments of Ghana and the United Kingdom.
"One of the key lessons learnt in those tours was that it was encouraged in both parliaments that there are presiding officers and chairpersons from a variety of parties in those parliaments and houses as this gave more credibility to the proceedings of the particular house.
"There is no use for us to go on these tours to learn things, bring them back, put reports to the house if we are not prepared to learn from them," he said.
Since 1994, one of the three house chairpersons would be from an opposition party, but the ANC discontinued this tradition in the fifth parliament, electing only ANC MPs. House chairs also preside over sittings of the assembly and wield considerably more power than ordinary MPs.
Steenhuisen said this was bad practice which had led to the breakdown of the house, as people felt they were victimised politically.
"It would be a healthy return to the post-democratic convention for us to have a presiding officer from one of the opposition parties," he suggested.
He also revealed that it was the view of the DA caucus, which met earlier on Thursday, that given the Bosasa events and unanswered questions that remained, it was in the interest of the house to have a presiding officer who didn't have such questions hanging over his or her head.
The UDM's Nqabayomzi Kwankwa agreed with Steenhuisen, while the EFF's Floyd Shivambu and FF Plus's Corne Mulder said it was up to the ANC as the majority party to decide.
The ANC's deputy chief whip, Doris Dlakude, said while chief whips undertook study tours to other parliaments, the ANC may pick and choose what it wants to implement from those study tours.
"A study tour is just a study tour. We will take what works for us because we didn't do a study tour in SA. We went to other countries. So, their systems of elections might not be the same as ours, so we will take what works for us and leave other things," she said.
Dlakude said while the ANC understood that SA's is a multi-party parliament, the fact of the matter was that the majority of South Africans gave the ANC the mandate to lead this country.
"So we are not going to outsource power because if you do that it will create a problem for the ANC. Yes, in the ANC, decisions are not taken by individuals, but in the ANC we lead and take decisions collectively because the ANC is not running a spaza like the DA," she said addressing heckling DA MPs.
When put to a vote the DA's proposed amendment was shot down by 205 votes to 83. Fifteen MPs abstained.
The assembly's rules provide for the election of three house chairpersons for the duration of parliament and also provides for the speaker to allocate functions and responsibilities to each house chairperson.
One house chairperson is responsible for “internal arrangements” which is in the main about ensuring the well-being and interests of MPs.
There is also a chairperson responsible for international relations ensuring the implementation of parliament’s international relations strategy among other things and the third, Frolick in this case is the house chairperson responsible for committees also commonly known as the chair of chairs.
It's a job he did in the fifth parliament.
His broad responsibilities include implementing any policy, directive or guideline on the scheduling and co-ordination of committee meetings, as well as the general management of all national assembly committees and subcommittees.
The chair of chairs also oversees and reports to the programme committee on progress with bills, monitors committee expenditure and authorises proposed committee expenditure after political approval has been obtained from any proposed activity among other things.