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Cablegate: Parliament's First 100 Days-Off to a Slow Start

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SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
RESENDING DUE TO POSSIBLE STRAGGLER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM SF
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENT'S FIRST 100 DAYS-OFF TO A SLOW START

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1. (SBU) Parliament's first one hundred days (minus the three week
recess) has been marked by new MPs finding their way around
Parliament, both literally and figuratively, inefficiency and lack
of clear guidance for the task at hand. Because over 60 percent of
Parliamentarians are new, many MPs are unsure of not only the role
that Parliament plays in the national arena, but are also uncertain
as to their own role as Members of Parliament. The Parliamentary
session began with each Ministry discussing their budgets and what
they plan to do with their allocated funds over the upcoming year.
Some budgets were passed with little debate, while others are still
pending in committees while the opposition tries to make changes.
Because the ANC holds a majority of the seats in Parliament with 264
MPs, all budgets will eventually be passed by the National Assembly
and those Ministries that are asking for more such as Defense and
Veterans Affairs will be re-visited in November during the medium
term budget debate.
2. (SBU) When Poloff recently asked a Member of Parliament to brief
a visiting Congressional delegation on the role of Parliament; the
MP was unable to do so because she was new and did not really
understand how Parliament works. Even many of the veteran MPs are
confused as to their roles in Parliament since many of them are
serving on new committees and do not have any experience in the
group in which they are now serving. Chris Lancaster, who currently
serves on the Defense Committee (previously served on Education),
told Poloff, "I do not know anything about defense, I am still
learning."


3. (SBU) Over the past several weeks, Poloff attended various
committee meetings and the sessions are all the same: MPs are
trying to figure out what the work of the committee is and the best
way to carry out that work. During Poloffs attendance at several
sessions of the International Relations and Cooperation Committee,
the committee members have publically said they are not sure of
their role and not sure of the way forward. There are only two
current members who were on the committee previously and one is from
the Inkatha Freedom Party, a small opposition party. O$&_QHVGabout what outsiders would be allowed to brief the
committee, but no decision was made. Recently, former Deputy
Foreign Minister Fatima Hajig and former chair of the committee, who
is now a back-bencher, briefed the group on how she perceives the
role of the committee and what she feels the committee must do.
Comment. Most of the committee, even members of her own party (ANC)
did not seem to heed her remarks. End comment. Note. It is unusual
for a MP who is not part of a particular committee to attend the
meeting and brief the committee. End note.

4. (SBU) The DA with 67 seats in Parliament is the official
opposition in Parliament. Poloff spoke to Sandy Kaylan, a member of
the DA Shadow Cabinet about the role the DA is playing in Parliament
and about the role of the newly formed Shadow Cabinet. Kaylan said
the Shadow Cabinet plays an oversight role, provides input to the DA
Qthe Shadow Cabinet plays an oversight role, provides input to the DA
caucus as to what is happening in their respective committees, and
discuss the way forward for specific issues and portfolios. Their
has only been one Shadow Cabinet meeting since the opening of the
Fourth Democratic Parliament and at this point their discussions are
being kept private with possible public disclosure in the future.
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The DA has also taken a bold step and proposed to Parliament that
Minister's and MP's air travel be restricted to economy class and
that there be a reduction on the cost of Ministers vehicles and
other benefits. In recent weeks the DA has reportedly been in talks
with COPE, the United Democratic Movement, and the Independent
Democrats to discuss their "re-alignment" under one party.

5. (SBU) The first one hundred days of Parliament have been
relatively quiet with MPs trying to find their footing. However,
one major event is the investigation of Democratic Alliance (DA)
Shadow Minister for Defense, David Maynier, by the ANC for releasing
information about possible arms sales to other countries. On August
2, DA Shadow Minister for Defense, David Maynier hosted a press
conference at Parliament where he released information regarding the
arms trade in South Africa. Maynier alleged that the National
Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), made up entirely of ANC
Ministers and Deputy Ministers, "is arming dictators all over the
world." The NCACC is supposed to ensure a legitimate and effective
process for controlling trade in conventional arms. If the weapons

CAPE TOWN 00000189 002.2 OF 002

1. (SBU) Parliament's first one hundred days (minus the three week
recess) has been marked by new MPs finding their way around
Parliament, both literally and figuratively, inefficiency and lack
of clear guidance for the task at hand. Because over 60 percent of
Parliamentarians are new, many MPs are unsure of not only the role
that Parliament plays in the national arena, but are also uncertain
as to their own role as Members of Parliament. The Parliamentary
session began with each Ministry discussing their budgets and what
they plan to do with their allocated funds over the upcoming year.
Some budgets were passed with little debate, while others are still
pending in committees while the opposition tries to make changes.
Because the ANC holds a majority of the seats in Parliament with 264
MPs, all budgets will eventually be passed by the National Assembly
and those Ministries that are asking for more such as Defense and
Veterans Affairs will be re-visited in November during the medium
term budget debate.
2. (SBU) When Poloff recently asked a Member of Parliament to brief
a visiting Congressional delegation on the role of Parliament; the
MP was unable to do so because she was new and did not really
understand how Parliament works. Even many of the veteran MPs are
confused as to their roles in Parliament since many of them are
serving on new committees and do not have any experience in the
group in which they are now serving. Chris Lancaster, who currently
serves on the Defense Committee (previously served on Education),
told Poloff, "I do not know anything about defense, I am still
learning."

could be used to contribute to internal repression, violate human
rights, violate fundamental freedoms, contribute to the escalation
of regional conflicts or contribute to terrorism or crime, and then
the weapons should not be exported. Maynier alleges that deals have
either already been authorized with some countries, namely Libya,
Syria, Venezuela and North Korea and pending with Iran and Zimbabwe.
Justice Minister Jeff Radebe who heads up the NCACC, denied that
any weapons have been sold to these countries, but admitted that
deals with some of these countries were under consideration. In
response to Maynier's accusations, the ANC has asked the National
Assembly to investigate whether Maynier contravened the National
Conventional Arms Control Act. If Maynier is found to have violated
the act, he could be criminally charged. The Chair of the Defense
Committee, Mr. Nyami Booi told Poloff that the ANC has hired a
lawyer to investigate this matter.

6. (SBU) Joan Fubbs, Committee Chair of Trade and Industry, told
Poloff that the Parliamentary budget is much too low. Because
President Zuma expanded the Cabinet, the committees in Parliament
have also been expanded, but Parliament's budget is not sufficient
to cover the increase in committees. Five committees in the
National Assembly and two committees in the National Council of
Provinces do not have any support staff and there is no money in the
current Parliamentary budget to hire any until November when the mid
term budget is revisited. On July 2, during the debate on the
Parliamentary budget, Speaker Max Sisulu said that Parliament's
budget is .18 percent of the national budget, which is lower than
all national departments whose budgets range from 0.3 percent to
48.4 percent of the total national budget. Sisulu said, "Parliament
is underfunded by 143 million rand."
Qis underfunded by 143 million rand."

7. (SBU) The Congress of the People (COPE), a breakaway party of the
ANC, has failed to live up to expectations. Instead of driving the
debates about economic transformation and service delivery it has
remained silent, its 30 National Assembly representatives are
largely invisible. The COPE leadership is engaged in squabbles about
who should be its leader rather than focusing on driving debates and
agendas in Parliament. COPE's second deputy president and member of
Parliament, Lynda Odendaal, and the party's election head, Simon
Grindrod, have recently resigned from COPE, fueling speculation that
the party is in trouble. Recently Mbhazima Shilowa, COPE's deputy
president, has hinted about pacts with other opposition parties,
including the DA, to consolidate the opposition force in the 2011
municipal polls. COPE's future as an independent party at this time
looks bleak. Comment. Whenever members of COPE address Parliament,
ANC MPs always heckle them by screaming, "traitor" and not allowing
them to speak. End comment.

8. (SBU) Comment. The Fourth Democratically elected Parliament
seems to be off to a slow start. Portfolio committees were only
finalized last week with several MPs being shifted to yet another
committee. One MP who was previously serving on the Mining
Committee for the past few months has now been taken off that
committee and reassigned. Parliament's confusion and slowness to
tackle the task at hand seems to be in contrast to Zuma's perceived
successes during his first 100 days in office. End comment.

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