Anthony Benadie MPL
Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga
The following address was delivered by Anthony Benadie MPL to the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature during the debate on the 2012/13 Policy and Budget Debate of the Provincial Legislature. Budget Vote 2.
This year, our nation celebrates the 16th year of existence of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Our constitution has become the cornerstone of democracy in Africa and is internationally acclaimed as one of the most progressive in the world. It is a constitution that has at its heart the Bill of Rights which gives life to every other constitutional provision.
That said, it remains imperative of us to periodically asses the progress and contribution that this Legislature has made in giving life to the spirit and dreams encapsulated in our constitution. While the legislature has sought, over the years, to provide a voice to citizens of this province, we must continually seek ways and means to further democratic interaction by educating our citizens about democracy and democratic processes.
In doing so, this legislature must be at the forefront of opening democratic space by promoting vibrant and constructive debate and interaction on policy, service delivery and oversight. It is non-negotiable that this legislature must strive to become the showcase of democracy, of free speech, tolerance, transparency and accountability, rather than the breeding ground of racial hatred, self-praise and personal gratification.
It is sad indeed, that despite the constitutional mandate of this institution and its significance in safeguarding our democratic order, that the public platform provided to us by this legislature are so often abused and trivialised through the conscious entrenchment of racial divisions and personal insult.
In this light, the DA is increasingly concerned at the kid-glove approach which many portfolio committees and the house as a whole display towards the executive. All too often, the disregard the executive displays to the oversight function of this house is amplified by our unwillingness and inability to enforce government’s obligation to implement house resolutions.
All too often, the ANC’s party political loyalties hamper the ability of the legislature as a constitutional institution to hold the executive to account. ANC MPLs repeatedly find themselves praising mediocre performance, and despite glaring inefficiencies within departments, repeatedly endorse the continuation thereof, and more often than not eagerly rise to government’s defence for delivery shortcomings.
Honourable Speaker, this house must enforce its authority, the Premier and MECs are not doing us a favour by accounting to the legislature, they are obligated to do so. Year after year we take resolutions which are never implemented, week after week we ask questions which are never answered. We conduct oversight visits and spend hours upon hours in long drawn out portfolio committee meetings, which rarely make any contribution to increasing the quality of life of our citizens.
The efficiency of the legislature, our leadership and our conduct must contribute to legitimising our existence in the fulfilment of the constitutional imperatives mandated to us, and as such, we must be wary of becoming the referenced example of a failed province in the debate of doing away with provinces.
The legislature must, as a matter of urgency, appoint a legislature secretary, to reduce the increasing administrative role which the Speaker is involving himself in. So too we must fill all the funded vacant posts currently hampering our efficiency.
We need to focus our attention on capacitating existing staff – and in the process of filling vacancies, attract genuine skills to our institution that can contribute to the quality of our work and add depth to our administration.
Honourable Speaker, dealing with the administration is becoming increasingly difficult as the absence of a single staff member due to leave or such like, halta an administrative system and brings an entire department to a standstill.
Some issues I’ve mentioned in the past continue to exist. I reiterate my position that we require a travel office in the legislature that can save us thousands of rands, and members must be made to pay for meals. The continued free eating is costing the legislature dearly. It is a disgrace that well-paid officials and politicians feast on a buffet of food, while thousands within our province go to bed hungry every day.
Honourable Speaker, let me say, that if ever we are to successfully hold the executive to account, we must be able to hold ourselves to account. It was rather embarrassing to read media reports on how few members, including yourself, declared their financial interest. We must symbolise accountability, transparency and honesty.
In conclusion, Honourable Speaker, I wish to express my gratitude and appreciation to the your office, the legislature staff and DA staff for the assistance and support afforded to Honourable Masango and myself, and the efforts made to assist us in the fulfilling of our duties.