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New ANC battlefront as Ace allies vow to use parly positions to ‘marshal’ Cyril’s ministers

2019-06-24 00:00

With newly elected portfolio committee chairs seen as Zuma backers, the House seems set for a showdown.

The ANC’s crippling factional battles are set to move to the corridors of Parliament, where supporters of secretary-general Ace Magashule have vowed to use their newly acquired power to give President Cyril Ramaphosa’s closest allies a hard time.

Fresh from a thumping victory that saw some controversial Ramaphosa foes secure the chairs of key portfolio committees, those associated with Magashule and former president Jacob Zuma are smelling blood.

They are determined to ensure that they use the positions to keep a tight leash on Ramaphosa’s ministers.

The chair positions had been bitterly contested between the two factions, with Ramaphosa’s allies determined that those with tainted reputations and those who had been associated with state capture should not be given powerful roles in Parliament.

‘WE WILL MARSHAL THEM’

A member of the national executive committee (NEC), who is close to Magashule, said they intended to use the committee chairperson roles to keep Ramaphosa’s ministers in check, particularly those who were hesitant to implement the ANC’s conference resolutions.

“We will marshal them, especially if they refuse to implement the conference resolutions. People want to soften our resolutions, but they will have to be implemented,” said the insider.

The source said the critical parliamentary portfolio committees are public enterprises (which has oversight on state-owned enterprises), transport (which has oversight on passenger rail agency Prasa), home affairs and justice.

“The committee chairs will be focused on the ministers and the work they do. If these committees want you fired, they can achieve that with just the right amount of pressure. They just need to summon you as a minister and expose your inefficiency in the eyes of the public,” the source said.

But Ramaphosa’s allies downplayed the claims of victory by the opposing camp, saying the outcome of the battle for control of the committees was “a mixed bag”.

The deputy general secretary of the SA Communist Party (SACP), Solly Mapaila, said the ANC alliance partner had scored a “huge victory” in the consultations ahead of the portfolio committee deployments.

Mapaila told City Press that the SACP had vehemently opposed the name of former minister of state security Bongani Bongo, who had been touted for chairperson of the justice and correctional services committee.

Former communications minister Faith Muthambi had also been linked to the role.

“We removed Bongo from being the chairperson of the justice committee, so that was a huge victory for us,” he said.

That committee oversees, among others, the National Prosecuting Authority and chapter 9 institutions such as the Public Protector.

It is likely to be key in determining what Parliament should do with the findings of the commission of inquiry into state capture, currently being led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

“There are still outstanding issues regarding the judicial commission [into state capture] that we want to follow quite sharply because we believe that the commission remains crucial in terms of its outcome,” Mapaila said.

Bongo eventually secured the committee chairship of home affairs, pitting him against close Ramaphosa ally Aaron Motsoaledi.

Mapaila said the outcome of the consultations “was a mixed bag of things ... we accept the weaknesses of the process, particularly the fact that some of the people who should not be in Parliament find themselves in Parliament”.

THE LUTHULI HOUSE BALANCING ACT

In a move seen as Magashule’s bid to build capacity at party headquarters and shore up his power, former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba and former environmental affairs minister Nomvula Mokonyane have been given high-profile roles at Luthuli House.

Both opted out of their seats in Parliament on the eve of the swearing-in ceremony.

Gigaba is set to take over the policy engine room, while Mokonyane – who also turned down a seat in Parliament, citing personal reasons – returns in one of her previous roles as head of organising.

Ramaphosa’s camp has also reinforced its presence at Luthuli House by bringing in ANC NEC member Sibongile Besani, who fell out of favour with Magashule over Free State politics a few years ago during his tenure as provincial premier.

Former justice and correctional services deputy minister Andries Nel will take the newly created role of coordinating the national working committee (NWC) and the NEC.

ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe told City Press that Nel’s legal skills are also expected to come in handy.

Ramaphosa had lost key allies at Luthuli House when he appointed Zizi Kodwa to be deputy minister of state security and Senzo Mchunu to be minister of public service.

INTEGRITY COMMISSION A HOT POTATO

ANC factions are also still battling over the powers of the integrity commission, with Ramaphosa supporters arguing that its powers should be reinforced and others saying the commission should be reined in.

Strengthening the hand of those who want the integrity commission weakened was the clumsy manner in which it dealt with 22 parliamentary nominees, whom it had flagged as being unsuitable to serve in the national legislature.

It was accused of relying on newspaper articles for evidence instead of on legally tested arguments.

During the NWC meeting last Monday, the ANC proposed that the commission be “better resourced and given investigative capacity”, according to those who attended the gathering.

A member of the NEC aligned to Ramaphosa said a proposal was tabled that the commission’s powers be reinforced and that it be given better resources and investigative capacity.

Submissions were also made at the NWC that the commission be given powers to summon anybody for an interview, instead of going through the secretary-general’s office.

An ANC insider said the thinking behind developing investigative capacity was to get an independent person with a legal background roped in.

The name of former ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa was being considered as a possible candidate to lead the investigative arm.

“But the factions in the party would eventually want to get someone who was likely to be more favourable to their interests, so the deployment in the investigative arm would be highly contested,” said the insider.

Contacted for comment on Friday, Phosa said nobody had approached him and he was not aware of the discussion.

However, a Magashule ally said the integrity commission could not have “superpowers” and had to be distinguishable from the ANC’s national disciplinary committee.

Some of those attending the NWC meeting also expressed concern that the commission relied heavily on media reports in its work, which, they said, was tantamount to “endorsing the journalists as having the authority to refer matters for investigation”.

“Are we now introducing a substructure within the NEC called the media? We must ask these questions,” said one.

Mabe said the integrity commission was currently operating on a narrow mandate set out in the party’s constitution, which would be fleshed out when the NEC finally adopted its terms of reference.

CONTRASTING SONA REACTIONS

Divisions within the party were also evident in how Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address (Sona) last week was received.

Mapaila lauded Ramaphosa, saying his Sona address was the perfect balance between responding to current challenges and offering hope.

Mapaila said that, while the R240 billion Eskom bailout over the next decade was not ideal, the SACP was pleased that Ramaphosa did not give any indication of privatisation.

“I guess you cannot avert a bailout, given the situation that Eskom finds itself in. What is important is that there was no announcement for the privatisation of Eskom, but there was a tabling of the challenges at Eskom and its effect on the economy.

“We have already seen the economy contracting by 2.3% as a consequence largely of load shedding and insufficient energy provision. So Eskom remains critical for us, and to get it right is an important priority, which we accept.”

Mapaila, who had proposed the use of quantitative easing, was also pleased that Ramaphosa had taken the SACP’s advice regarding emphasising what the Constitution says in totality about the relationship between the finance minister and the SA Reserve Bank.

But Ramaphosa’s critics said Sona was “full of imaginations and dreams, and no resolutions”.

“There is no plan and it is clear they thought governing was going to be easy, but practical experience is proving different,” said an ANC MP.

The MP said Ramaphosa had made no mention of the debate about land expropriation without compensation, because big business wanted the proposal to disappear, but ANC structures would not accept that.

“At the same time, Zindzi Mandela is putting her own pressure and they cannot act against her because the surname is heavy. If it was someone else, they would have long ago called her back home.”

The MP added: “There is no problem with her talking about land because it is a conference resolution.”

‘WE ARE A COLLECTIVE’

Appearing alongside ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina in Parliament last week, Magashule rubbished claims that he and Ramaphosa were at odds.

“As the ANC officials, we are very happy that we have been working very consistently. We just read in the media that the [secretary-general] is going this way and the president is going that way. It is not true. I don’t know when are you going to accept it; even when you hear it from the horse’s mouth, you still believe there is something else happening,” Magashule said.

“There is no way the officials of the ANC would ever not work as a collective because that is our understanding of how this liberation movement works. We operate as a collective.”

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January 26 2020