The Legislature and Province Must be Won Back for the People

Issued by Karen de Kock, MPL

DA Northern Cape:  Spokesperson for SCOPA   

On Thursday, 15th of March, the Portfolio Committee on Finance Development and Tourism chaired by Hon. Kagisho Molusi debated for an hour on whether the scheduled presentation by the department on the 2004-2014 Provincial Growth and Development Strategy (PGDS) for the province should be open or closed for the public.

The opposition walked out of the meeting when the chairperson finally ruled that the meeting can be open to the public but that he will write a letter to the Speaker of the legislature to discipline me for “instructing” an official of the legislature to provide a copy of the presentation to the public without first asking his “permission” and establishing whether the meeting can be open to the public or not.  

Whilst the Democratic Alliance respects the rules of the legislature, which state that the chairperson may, whenever he or she deems it reasonable and justifiable, order a meeting closed to the public, these rules remain subject to the constitution which states that the provincial legislature must facilitate public involvement and conduct its business in an open manner. Furthermore members of the legislature swear obedience to the constitution, not the whims of a chairperson, before they start their duties.  

 The DA believes that it was completely unexpected and inconceivable that a presentation on the PGDS should even elicit a debate on whether the meeting should be open or closed to the public. It is the vision document of the province, referred to in every annual report and state of the province address and to which the budget of the province speaks. It includes no incriminatory information and poses no threat to the state. Although the meeting was eventually ruled open, there should have been no debate on it and giving a member of the public a document in order to follow the presentation should never have been an issue.  

The above is once again a clear indication that the ANC suffers from a severe case of “Doublethink”. A term coined by George Orwell which  describes the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory ideas, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it. The ANC states that they are the champions of public participation, yet they have an hour long debate on whether the public should have access to a discussion on the vision of the province. They claim to uphold the constitution, yet rebuke a member of the opposition who does the same. They claim to be open and transparent, yet we have a public hearing on the “Secrecy Bill”.  

There is and shall be no progressive development in this province precisely because this vision document is not shared, discussed and debated on a regular basis. Furthermore, it is impossible to chart a way forward when the leading party believes in contradictory ideas and potentially wants to silence the voice of whistle blowers.  

 The only solution is that the provincial parliament, and in effect the province, should be won back for the people. The DA believes that this is possible because there once was a time when committees bustled with enthusiasm, ideas, innovation and public participation. When politicians worked together and with integrity to serve the public and debates were relevant and not mirrored by party lines and superficial topics, like whether the public can be privy to the document that determines the quality of their life.

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