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

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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) have 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, such as
the Health department budget, were debated heavily by the
opposition. Because the ANC holds a majority of the seats in
Parliament with 264 MPs, all budgets were 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. Additionally, the number of
committees has been greatly expanded to cover in-house issues as
well as to mirror the expansion of the Cabinet and MPs simply do not
understand the role of all the new committees. All committees with
the exception of one are chaired by the ANC. Chris Gololo, who
currently serves on the Defense and Military Veterans, the Public
Enterprise, and the Mining Committees (and who previously served on
the Education Committee), told Poloff, "I do not know anything about
my committees, 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 the mandate of the committee 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 noTJ1o!ang an
oversight role, "since there is not much legislation in the
committee now." Instead of building on the work the committee did
in the last session, they are starting from scratch. There was a
discussion about 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
Q4. (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
caucus as to what is happening in their respective committees, and
discuss the way forward for specific issues and portfolios. There
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

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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
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."

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, fuelling 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) The Fourth Democratically elected Parliament seems to be
off to a slow start. Many MPs have been assigned to several
committees and committee membership was not finalized until last
week, with several last minute shifts of MPs to yet another
committee. One MP who previously served on the Mining Committee
Qcommittee. One MP who previously served on the Mining Committee
and who recently travelled around the country to look at illegal
mining operations and study the safety of mining in the country has
now been taken off that committee and reassigned. Comment. The MPs
themselves are a bit confused by this process and are frustrated
that they are being forced to learn about issues they know nothing
about. However, this is mostly limited to the ANC MPs who tow the
party line and serve where the Chief Whip tells them to serve
without question. The DA seems to have made more of an effort to
place its members in committees commiserate with their experience.
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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