South Africa: Mama Nomvula Will Still Be Close to the Action As Chair of Chairs

(file photos)

While the ANC's announcement that Nomvula Mokonyane will take the position of chair of chairs in Parliament is a clear-cut indication that she will not make it into President Cyril Ramaphosa's cabinet, it does not mean she will be out of the sphere of influence.

The chair of chairs is a mostly behind the scenes, but highly influential position. The position is also called house chairperson for committees. The position was held by Cedric Frolick in the fifth Parliament.

On Monday, after the ANC NEC meeting in Cape Town, Secretary-General Ace Magashule announced that Mokonyane, currently Environmental Affairs Minister, will be the governing party's chair of chairs in the sixth Parliament, which will be established on Wednesday.

The ability of the chair of chairs to influence proceedings is best illustrated by the probes into state capture that four portfolio committees - that of Home Affairs, State Enterprises, Transport, and Mineral Resources - undertook. It was Frolick, in his capacity as chair of chairs, who instructed the committees to undertake these probes.

The chair of chairs is also the person who must give portfolio committees permission to close their meetings to the public.

Mokonyane - popularly known as "Mama Action" - previously served as minister of water and sanitation. Last year, Parliament's public finance watchdog committee, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), instituted an investigation into the department's affairs during Mokonyane's tenure as its political head.

The committee also called for a criminal investigation into Mokonyane's former ministry. Former Scopa chairperson Themba Godi said in February 2018 the Department of Water and Sanitation suffered a complete collapse under Mokonyane. Godi will not return to Parliament as his party, APC, did not garner enough votes to retain his seat.

A matter that will surely land before several portfolio committees during this parliamentary term, is the allegations of state capture by facilities management company African Global Operations, better known as Bosasa. Mokonyane, and Frolick, were implicated in the explosive testimony of the company's former COO Angelo Agrizzi before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.

According to Aggrizzi, Mokonyane received gifts including meat and alcohol for family functions, as well as R300 000 cash stuffed into a Louis Vuitton handbag.

Mokonyane has denied any wrongdoing.

In February 2018 Mokonyane was moved from the water and sanitation portfolio to the communications portfolio, and in November 2018 moved to her current portfolio of environmental affairs.

According to Parliament's website, the chair of chairs has the following responsibilities:Broad responsibility to implement any policy, directive or guideline on the scheduling and co-ordination of committee meetings, as well as the general management of all National Assembly committees and sub-committees.Ensures that input/concerns from the public, which are referred to committees, are attended to. Assist with and coordinating committee budgets and business plans and monitors committee expenditure.Authorizes proposed committee expenditure after political approval has been obtained from any proposed activity.Provides guidance on best practice in respect of committee reports and oversight functions and assisting in developing an effective oversight model for this purpose. Chairs the Committee of Chairpersons, which in terms of Assembly Rules, may make recommendations regarding any matter affecting the scheduling or functions of any committee.Spearheads the formulation, implementation and monitoring of travel policy for Parliament, but specifically in relation to committee visits internationally and nationally, such as planning and co-ordination of oversight visits. Responsible for the implementation and coordination of Parliamentary Oversight Model. Facilitates the development and implementation of a public participation model for Parliament.Overseeing Parliamentary Public Participation services.Monitors the implementation of the Information and Communication policy. Participating in various Parliamentary Committees, like the National Assembly Programme Committee, Chief Whips' Forum, National Assembly Rules, Joint Rules Committee, Joint Parliamentary Budget Forum.


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