PARLIAMENT: THE FAIRYTALE THAT BECAME A NIGHTMARE
OUTA's fifth annual report on parliamentary oversight reveals a recurring pattern of parliament falling short in its crucial role of scrutinizing and overseeing executive actions. We found that parliament is failing in its democratic duty, veering off course from its original mission of safeguarding democracy and becoming a dysfunctional institution. Urgent intervention is needed.
Since the dawn of democracy in 1994, parliament held great promise. However, nearly three decades later, this promise has eroded in the face of poor governance, subpar service delivery, and a parliament seemingly disconnected from the needs of the citizenry.
OUTA's comprehensive report, titled "Parliament: The Fairy-tale Turned Nightmare," was meticulously compiled by our Parliamentary Engagement Office, covering the period from July 2022 to June 2023. This is our fifth annual report on parliamentary oversight, aiming to shed light on the inner workings of parliament and its transparency and robustness.
Our previous reports consistently criticized parliamentarians for failing to hold the executive accountable. In 2019, we questioned why underperforming MPs remained on political party lists. In 2020, we observed a political system that rewarded unethical behaviour, promoting those deeply implicated in state capture to influential roles. In 2021, we highlighted the perception that parliament had been hollowed out, populated by individuals lacking ethical standards. In 2022, we identified a parliament grappling with the aftermath of state capture and endorsing budgets despite financial mismanagement, all while maintaining superficial public participation.
The 2023 report primarily focuses on the National Assembly and its portfolio committees responsible for overseeing the executive. We assessed the performance of 11 such committees.
Our latest report comes with a stern warning: South Africa's parliament is failing in its duty to fulfil its democratic role, becoming a dysfunctional institution. This transformation departs from the ideal, resembling a burnt-out shell where dedication to democratic values has waned. Without substantial reforms, parliament will remain ineffective in its democratic mandate.
Our report underscores the challenges facing new parliamentarians in 2024. They will inherit an institution seemingly designed to hinder transparent and accountable governance, rather than representing the people's interests.
OUTA views this report as essential in strengthening our parliamentary democracy and upholding constitutional rights. We anticipate further engagement with parliament as a cornerstone of our democracy, through which civil society can demand government accountability.
You can read the full report here.