Bathabile Dlamini. Gallo Images
Bathabile Dlamini. Gallo Images

It was interesting to read the judgment handed down by the constitutional court in the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) matter. What was noteworthy was that the court held social development minister Bathabile Dlamini personally accountable and then set in place a programme of mandatory reporting back to the court on progress of the remedial action. Additionally, Cash Paymaster Services was ordered to provide full financial disclosure.

The judgment was widely welcomed, but the big issue being missed here is that this is precisely the type of accountability a properly functioning parliament should have been demanding. When the opposition tried to get Dlamini and her department to account we were stonewalled for more than a year. Dlamini was protected at every stage from rigorous oversight and accountability, and she was shielded by the speaker from answering written and oral questions on the Sassa matter.

If parliament were doing its job, there would have been no need for the court to intervene. Imagine if Dlamini had been put on the same terms by parliament for reports and full disclosure a year ago?

Parliament is empowered by our constitution to subpoena any person and compel him or her to produce any document. The ANC speaker, the committee chair and ANC members simply refused to do this, and they are the real villains. Just like when the speaker and the ANC were found to be in dereliction of duty in the Nkandla scandal, the courts are again being forced to step in and do the work that parliament should.

The speaker has become nothing more than the goalkeeper for the executive rather than the referee in parliament, and she’s been handed another red card by the constitutional court.

John Steenhuisen,
MP Chief whip of the official opposition,
Cape Town

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