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It is widely accepted that Parliament and other legislative bodies were conspicuously absent from efforts mounted to combat the corruption and state capture that characterized the period of the Zuma administration. This responsibility was largely left to civil society organisations, investigative journalists and the courts while Parliament proved, at best, unable to exercise its considerable powers and duties of executive oversight, and, at worst, directly complicit in shielding the perpetrators of state capture from effective scrutiny.

While in the dying months of the Zuma administration and in the period since its demise, there is evidence of a Parliament prepared to take on its key oversight function, we fear that the inclusion of thoroughly compromised candidates on the parliamentary election lists of each of the major parties, represents a significant setback for the prospect of robust parliamentary oversight.

Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC), commented: “Respect for Parliament is heavily dependent on the integrity and standing of its membership to execute its constitutional mandate to ‘represent the people and to ensure government by the people’. This can only be done by MPs who are fully committed to uphold the law and the Constitution.”

The legal grounds for formally objecting to the inclusion of particular candidates on the Parliamentary lists are extremely and inappropriately narrow. This affords little opportunity for successful legal challenge to the inclusion of candidates, some of whom have been found to have lied under oath, others who are the subject of strong prima facie allegations of corruption, made under oath, while still others have had persuasive allegations of racism and sexism leveled against them.

It is our strongly held view that in the final consideration of their lists, political parties should remove those – who are well known – from candidature for elected political office. We also demand that the relevant legislation be amended so as to raise the bar on acceptable candidature for political office.

David Lewis, executive director of Corruption Watch, commented: “Discussion surrounding the appropriateness or otherwise of candidates for high political office, inevitably give rise to repetition of the mantra of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. The implication of this is that only convicted criminals are disqualified from public office, thus allowing severely ethically challenged individuals to occupy seats in Parliament and the provincial legislatures. This is not only a further example of the culture of impunity but also fatally undermines the public standing of institutions that are meant to be pillars of our democracy.”

Media contacts:

CASAC: Lawson Naidoo 073 158 5736

Corruption Watch: Phemelo Khaas 083 763 3472