THE BLOG

The Week In Parliament Through The Lens Of State Capture

Oppose Zuma? Awkward, because most members are compromised; awkward, because Zuma controls the purse strings.

31/05/2017 03:59 SAST | Updated 31/05/2017 06:41 SAST
James Oatway/ Reuters
South Africa's Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba addresses a news conference in Pretoria, South Africa April 4, 2017.

Another week.

The outcome of the ANC's National Executive Committee meeting this past weekend puts it all into perspective. Oppose Zuma? Awkward, because most members are compromised; awkward, because Zuma controls the purse strings.

Split and form another 'real' ANC? Awkward, because you will lose your seats as MP's and all income streams come to an end; awkward, because you'll have no funds to fuel the new party. So the question is, who can lay claim to the income streams that flow from Ramaphosa or Motsepe or Luthuli House companies? Awkward, because the battle for the 'soul' of the ANC is really a battle for control of these income streams. It's all about the money.

And the awkwardness is never more evident than it is in parliament where its fallback position is brazenness. Witness the Portfolio Committee Meeting on Home Affairs where the minister makes no bones about the need to deal with aggressive immigration lawyers and 'people who go to court to challenge the position of the government.' It's all about 'sending a clear message that you cannot mess with the government,' according to the minister and her deputy.

And those brazen messages are necessary because it's all about the money, and the proposed Border Management Authority that seeks to assume all functions of border control and associated customs and excise collection.

But all roads lead to the National Treasury, and Minister Gigaba, in his opening address to the budget vote, was unambiguous in his call for private sector accountability. Between the smokescreen of private sector complicity and fires raging in the public sector, the minister appeared to be burning but not yet consumed. Perhaps he's styling himself on the biblical bush.

I suspect though that these fires, fanned by the ill wind blowing from the Saxonwold shebeen, will continue to turn up the heat on the minister, even as he survived, with serious scalding, the roasting he received from opposition spokesmen and women. The heat was certainly turned up at the following day's debate on the Public Enterprises budget. Minister Lynne Brown was roundly lambasted by the IFP, the EFF and our own Natasha Mazzone as the failures, the folly, the scandals and the lies connecting the dots of state capture were laid bare.

There was no particular mention of our nine million unemployed, of state capture or of the financial implications of our rating agency downgrades.

ANC MP's were unusually silent as speaker, after speaker, tore into the minister, but they, no doubt, regained their voices at the extravagant celebratory dinners that follow budget debates. Not that there's anything in particular to celebrate, and in any event, the DA boycotts this wasteful misuse of public money, on principle.

Next was the turn of the minister of Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, with whom I remember crossing swords in the late 80's, when he sought, as a young trade unionist, to foment a strike in our family business that was one of the pioneers of black economic empowerment and entrepreneurship. The inability displayed in his budget speech, to identify the required changes to labour laws, to address the removal of red tape and bureaucratic impediments to business, and the importance of improving access to capital was indicative of his lack of growth from those early stances he evinced in the heady 80's.

Apart from externalising responsibility for the drivers affecting the decline in domestic growth, listing an array of 'achievements' responsible for our lacklustre economic growth as if that particular endeavour was desirable, possible, opportunity-driven or equitable – his speech was dry account of misfocus founded on manufactured misfortune. There was no particular mention of our nine million unemployed, of state capture or of the financial implications of our rating agency downgrades. But then, that too would be awkward.

By the time I attended the budget debate on Transport which promised a whitewash of Sanral, E-Tolls, Prasa and more, I was in dire need of a drink. Oh well, another week looms, and in the wake of the NEC meeting and the Public Affairs Research Institute's report on How South Africa is being Stolen, it promises to be an eventful one.