New ANC Chief Whip gets thumbs down from opposition

BY CHARL BOSCH - MARCH 22, 2016

Opposition parties have reacted negatively to the African National Congress’ (ANC) appointment of Jackson Mthembu as its new Chief Whip.

Mthembu, who previously served as the party’s spokesperson, was officially confirmed by ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe on Tuesday morning as its new Whip, following Stone Sizani’s re-deployment to Germany as South Africa’s new ambassador to Berlin earlier this month.

“The ANC is confident that Comrade Mthembu will discharge, with distinction, his responsibilities of overseeing the political and administrative functioning of the ANC Caucus to support the ANC's programmes and policies. We wish Comrade Jackson Mthembu well in his new role,” ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said in a statement.

Reacting to the announcement, Democratic Alliance (DA) Chief Whip John Steenhuisen said Mthembu is likely to use his newfound roll to block any attempts from the opposition to hold the executive accountable in defence of President Jacob Zuma.

“South Africa needs Parliament to work. The ANC Caucus has a duty to oversee the Executive. They have failed dismally to do this in the past and it is doubtful that Mthembu as a Zuma loyalist will have the backbone to stand up for the institution of Parliament while he is Chief Whip,” Steenhuisen remarked.

Congress of the People (Cope) spokesperson Dennis Bloem said Mthembu’s presence in Parliament is unlikely to have any effect on the ongoing chaotic sittings, as he will continue to show biased towards Zuma.

“His function will be to keep the ANC troops in line and to ensure that they continue to serve as useful voting idiots. Parliament will therefore remain in a state of tension with Zuma supporters on the one side and Zuma opponents on the other side. He will have little effect in bridging the yawning divide,” Bloem remarked.

However, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the party wishes Mthembu well in his new role, and that it expects him not “to bulldoze illegal and partisan positions that cannot stand the test of law”.

“We encourage Mr. Mthembu to use his political seniority to provide mature guidance and sound leadership so that Parliament plays the necessary oversight and law making role without fear or favour,” Ndlozi said.