Alison Tilley
Alison Tilley

Showdown at OK Corral… well, E249, New Assembly wing.

I am often baffled by what makes the news and what doesn’t. I mean let’s just assume for argument’s sake, we have a showdown between the longstanding chair of a legislative committee, and a member of the executive. Oh well, ok, it was Chauke and the Minister of Home Affairs.

There is a whole ‘he says, she says’ going on. Mostly the committee is really narked at the DG refusing to ‘allow’ the committee to call provincial managers. The DG claims the minister told him not to allow the committee to call the minister. The minister is dodging the issue.

In a moment worthy of any court drama, ANC MP Kgosi Mathebe says, “Was the DG lying?”

And the minister says, “The DG did not lie.”

And there the thing is. The minister told a member of her staff not to respond to the request of her oversight committee in Parliament. My heavens! (Or other phrases to that effect.) Don’t you think that should make headline news?

It is an absolute first for Parliament. Both bits — I have never heard of either an official being told not to accede to Parliament’s wishes, or of a minister being called to order by a committee so starkly.

There are two obvious responses to my amazement. One is, “who cares?” This is generally the response of people who will happily bang on about how appalling the service is in Home Affairs, and see no connection between that and accountability on the part of the executive. The other is “so what?” This is a more sophisticated response, implying that in fact all of these things are just a shadow play, giving us the illusion of accountability, when what is actually going down is some fairly brutal politics.

Maybe so. But it is certainly the first time I have seen that kind of challenge to the executive from Parliament, directly and openly insisting on their role. And it is also to the credit of the minister that she brushed aside the committee’s suggestion that the meeting be held in camera.

But surely this is seriously news worthy? Am I entirely naïve in thinking this is extraordinary stuff? Maybe it will make a few inches in my morning paper. Maybe I am under the wrong impression, and it will in fact be headline news. If it isn’t, it should be. Parliament is doing what it was put there to do. My word…