National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete has revealed that she is anxious about her future as she doesn’t know where she will end up after this year’s elections.
“It’s a time of anxiety. It’s not relief. It’s actually a time of anxiety because you don’t know what’s coming in the next couple of months … unlike an ordinary South African who has a job and knows they have a job up to the end of the year,” said Mbete, responding to a question by TimesLIVE about whether she was relieved her tempestuous term was coming to an end.
“That our names are on [candidate] lists is just one thing, but for all I know beyond the elections we might be sitting right at the back as backbenchers. And we would have to learn from scratch how to be good backbenchers who still continue to play a role and contribute towards the betterment of the country.
“So, it’s just that anxiety of not knowing where you are ending up after the elections,” said Mbete, being uncharacteristically frank.
She was addressing journalists alongside other parliamentary presiding officers about the state of readiness ahead of next week’s state of the nation address, which will also be the last of this fifth term of parliament.
While Mbete is anxious, her deputy, Lechesa Tsenoli, said in many respects he was relieved that the parliamentary term was coming to an end adding, however, that parliament had been able to make interventions that were useful.
“When you compare our members [MPs] here in SA and others elsewhere, this is a little picnic, [it’s] nothing compared to the chairs flying in the air, fists on jaw and hectic stuff. We don’t experience the kind of stuff that others experience and we continually hope that things will be different,” he said.
The National Council of Provinces’ bosses, Thandi Modise and Raseriti Tau, were more circumspect and mainly spoke of the honour and privilege of having served in their positions.
“I wouldn’t say it’s relief, it’s heartbreaking because … we feel particularly from the NCOP, there could be other things that we could have done differently and in a manner that could have made our lives easier in an effort to improve the lives of our people,” said Tau.
It also emerged at the briefing that former president Jacob Zuma has opted not to attend the event. In a prepared statement, Mbete said former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe had confirmed their attendance.
“We automatically invite all the former heads of state and former presiding officers. If we indicate that he is not coming, it might be because he has not accepted our invitation. But we do not think there is anything untoward, people do have commitments,” said Modise, responding to a TimesLIVE question as to whether Zuma had been invited.
Parliament’s bosses were adamant there will be one agenda item only on the night – the president’s address – and that they have not received any request to turn the occasion into a question-and-answer session.
The EFF last week threatened to turn the event into such a session if President Cyril Ramaphosa did not “account” for his role in the Bosasa scandal before the end of January.
In response to this, Mbete and Modise said that while they did not expect a disruption of the event, the usual rules and conventions of a joint sitting would be applied.
This year’s Sona will be significantly scaled down with parliament budgeting R2.5m for the event compared with the R4.7m for last year’s event. The actual expenditure last year was R1.9m.
“As South Africans continue to face economic challenges, parliament is taking every feasible step to do more with fewer resources progressively,” said Mbete.