The African National Congress has sacked Mnyamezeli Booi, the chairman of the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans as well as Hlengiwe Christophina Mgabadeli, chairwoman of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence in a move opposition parties both welcomed and decried.
The move comes just weeks after President Jacob Zuma shuffled his Cabinet. Zuma last month sacked nine ministers in the biggest executive shake-up since at least 1994.
Freedom Front Plus defence spokesman Pieter Groenewald and Democratic Alliance defence shadow minister David Maynier welcomed the sacking of Mgabadeli, noting her committee has only met once since May last year – and that meeting was solely to confirm her appointment. Both lamented the sacking of Booi however, saying it was motivated by him holding the executive – principally defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu – to account.
“The bottom line is that Booi was fired because he did his job and stood up to Lindiwe Sisulu”, Maynier said. Groenewald added the move sent the wrong signal and was “a sign the executive did not want to account to Parliament.” He added the move “signalled nothing good.”
The Times newspaper reports today ANC deputy secretary general Thandi Modise yeterday went to Parliament to deliver the news of the axings to party Members of Parliament at their last caucus meeting of the year. She said the party was not happy with Booi’s leadership. “The committee had a number of interesting moments,” she said alluding to the committee’s public spats with Sisulu during the recent passage of the Defence Amendment Bill. “We do not wish to have this type of behaviour.
“The ANC at all costs must be one public representative party that will ensure that, at no time, at no stage, do you place the defence of this country in a situation where the soldiers’ attention is deflected from what they are supposed to do,” she said. The Independent group newspapers had her add that it “is not in the interest of the country to have these unnecessary tensions … we have removed this comrade, not because of the (clashes) … but the ANC reserves the right to replace its members,” she said.
“We were not happy with the way the committee was functioning and with the way it lost focus and the main thrust of its mandate,” Modise was quoted saying by the South African Press Association. The wire service noted Booi and Sisulu were at loggerheads in the past months over Sisulu’s refusal to submit a report by the interim national defence force commission to Parliament on establishing a permanent National Defence Force Service Commission and a special dispensation for the conditions of service of members of the defence force.
The ANC had given its full support to Sisulu and cautioned Booi that his ultimatum to Sisulu to release the report within 30 days bordered on “ill-discipline”. ” She added the party expected some tensions between the executive and the legislature, but it did not envisage a situation where one institution undermined another. All ministers of the ANC are expected to account to Parliament and to the public. … “I don’t think we are being unfair [on Booi]. We are happy he took the time and did his best as chair,” she said.
The Independent papers added Booi was also “suspected of ganging up with the opposition” and has further been the focus of an investigation related to the misuse of ANC caucus funds while he was chief whip. SAPA reported Modise said she could not comment on whether Booi was replaced as part of a continuing probe into the alleged misappropriation by ANC Members of Parliament of R50 million.
Modise announced junior MP Malusi Motimele would replace Booi. Motimele has to date not served on the committee and has since last May only served as an ordinary member on the Standing Committee on Finance. Motimele was a member of the Limpopo Provincial Legislature from 1999 to 2008.
Mgabadeli was sacked for failing to provide strategic leadership to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, a constitutional structure that advises the President on defence and security, Modise added.
The committee had remained silent when issues relating to low morale and poor service conditions in the army came to the fore, Modise said. “We are not happy with the way it has functioned. We are therefore putting in JJ Maake, whom we think will ensure that the constitutional mandate of this committee is achieved.”
She was scathing about Mgabadeli’s performance. “The JSCD is a constitutional committee and it has a number of crucial things to do … this committee had been very silent and that’s why we make the change,” Modise said.
The committee’s new chairman, Jerome Maake, is on the national executive of the ANC’s Military Veterans Association and has been an MP since 2004. Media reports noted that also fired were labour committee chairwoman Lumka Yengeni, a member of the ANC executive and wife of influential but controversial politician Tony Yengeni and Vytjie Mentor, the outspoken chairwoman of the portfolio committee on public enterprises.
The new appointments are:
- Joint Standing Committee on Defence: Jerome Maake
- Defence and military veterans: Malusi Motimele
- Chair of caucus: Jerry Thibedi
- House chairs: Cedric Frolick and Fatima Hajaig
- Arts and culture: Thandile Sunduza
- Basic education: Hope Malgas
- Communications: Eric Kholwane
- Energy: Sisa Njikelana
- Home affairs: Maggy Maunye
- Higher education: Ishmael Malale
- International relations and co-operation: Hargreaves Magama
- Justice: Luwellyn Landers
- Labour: Mamagase Nchabeleng
- Public enterprises Peter Maluleke
- Public works: Catherine Mabuza
- Water and environment: Johnny De Lange
- Women, children and people with disabilities: Dorothy Ramodibe
Pic: Booi in the chair in July 2010 with defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu