2019 is done and dusted, which means we can take stock of the year, and name the year’s top performers in Parliament. We do this because politicians tend to only make the news when things go wrong. And so it should be – we must hold hold them accountable.
So let’s give credit where it is due, to those parliamentarians who do their job best, in the following categories:
Minister of the Year
Winner: General Bheki Cele (Police): Much remains to be done to fix the police, and Cele is making a real effort. He is emphatic and energetic, largely tries to do the right thing and is his own man. Has his faults, but gives his best.
He is diligent at answering parliamentary questions (as opposed to many of his colleagues, notably Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma) and takes accountability seriously.
Runner-up: Barbara Creecy (Environment, Forestry and Fisheries): Early days yet, but Creecy has brought passion and efficiency to a portfolio in dire need of both. She is available, visible, accountable and knowledgeable on her portfolio. She is the promptest of all ministers at answering parliamentary questions and sets an example her colleagues would do well to follow
Chairperson of the Year
Winner: Thandi Modise (Speaker of the National Assembly): She has installed order where disorder used to reign under her hapless predecessor, Baleka Mbete. She is punctual, strict and fair, and the most impartial speaker we have had since 1994, with the possible exception of Max Sisulu. (Short pre-emptive note: Her treatment of animals is not at issue here; her treatment of Parliament is).
Runner-up: Gratitude Magwanishe (ANC): The chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on justice and correctional services is a massive improvement on his predecessor, also as far as respectful and decent treatment of the opposition is concerned.
His committee took the exceptional initiative to itself write a good and necessary bill on party political funding – an unusual achievement.
Parliamentary Speech of the Year
Winner: Geordin Hill-Lewis (DA): His speech on proposed prescribed assets legislation was a tour de force which unmasked the dangerous plan and halted it in its tracks, at least for the time being.
The research, presentation and sheer power of an argument which is undeniably correct, coupled with being held in high esteem in Parliament through years of diligent work and agreeable behaviour, broke the momentum of this potentially disastrous proposal – maybe temporarily, hopefully permanently.
Runner-up: Dr Pieter Groenewald (Freedom Front Plus): His speech in the second State of the Nation debate (after the general election) summed up the sentiments of his constituency perfectly, and set out his party’s mandate in no uncertain terms.
MP of the Year
Winner: Siviwe Gwarube (DA): Her energetic, factually accurate and unceasing campaign against the proposed model of National Health Insurance (NHI) is changing the debate on the matter.
She fights the good fight in the national interest, and exposed the disastrous results of the NHI trial runs, upending the disgraceful efforts of Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and his departmental toadies to hide it.
To top it off, Gwarube always acts in a friendly, courteous and warm manner, which makes her a political force to reckon with. An exciting example; an inspiring MP.
Runner-up: Inkosi Elphas Buthelezi (IFP): His inputs on the ad hoc committee on amending section 25 of the Constitution often makes the difference – all the more so because he puts his party’s view in opposing this risky change to our Constitution so calmly and in such a civil manner. An effective parliamentary warrior.
Newcomer MP of the Year
Winner: Philip van Staden (Freedom Front Plus): Through timely intervention, he averted a possible disaster in the training of nurses. Like Gwarube and the EFF’s Dr Suzan Thembekwayo, he adds much-needed purpose and knowledge to the parliamentary portfolio committee on health.
Runner-up: Dr Leon Schreiber (DA): His focused approach led directly to the long overdue tightening of belts on the cabinet gravy train. He is making a huge contribution to wastage in the department of public service and administration.
Schreiber is proof that one committed parliamentarian can breathe life into a hitherto moribund portfolio, in the national interest.