SOWETAN SAYS | Ethics must matter in picking MPs

National Assembly
National Assembly
Image: GCIS

Fifty-eight members of the uMkhonto weSizwe Party are set to be sworn in today as members of parliament after their boycott of the first sitting of the National Assembly.

One of the members of the party is the former Western Cape High Court judge president John Hlophe. Hlophe, whose party announced at the weekend that he would lead their caucus in parliament, was impeached for misconduct just months ago. 

His impeachment process, which was initiated by legislature, came after the Judicial Service Commission in 2021 found him guilty of gross misconduct, effectively meaning that Hlophe was not fit to serve as a judge.

Therefore, Hlophe’s re-emergence as a lawmaker for the MK Party, though not surprising, has fuelled a necessary debate about ethics and the moral standing of members of parliament. He is one of several of our MPs who have dark clouds of ethical questions hanging over their heads even as they assume responsibility in the second most powerful arm of the state.  

In Hlophe’s case the standards should even be higher after serving in one of the three arms of the state – the judiciary before this.

Other MPs whose inclusion in the legislature have polarised opinions include ANC MP Zizi Kodwa who was recently charged with corruption and EFF MP Busisiwe Mkhwebane who also impeached as public protector after she was found unfit to hold office by an inquiry.

Even though none of the MPs have been found guilty and sentenced to more than 12 months in prison by a court which would preclude them from standing in parliament, we need upright lawmakers without a shadow of doubt clinging to them.

Legal requirements aside, standing for parliament in SA where public confidence and trust in the state has been waning due to malfeasance ought to require higher standards of integrity than the law asks.

This means that our leaders both in government and the legislatures ought to not only be exemplary but their reputation in public office impeccable. It is evident however with some of the members of the new parliament that our political parties continue to pay lip service to combating corruption and setting bar higher for ethics.

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