Ministers shouldn’t be MPs, says Kenyan MP
THE fact that South African government ministers are also members of Parliament weakens political oversight of the executive, says visiting Kenyan MP John Munuve.
Mr Munuve told BDlive at the Electoral Commission of South Africa’s (IEC’s) results operations centre on Thursday that: “If the executive are not MPs it means that they are open to criticism from all parties in Parliament, whether the MPs are members of the ruling or opposition parties.”
He and five other fellow Kenyan MPs are in South Africa observing national and provincial elections.
The IEC is still counting votes from Wednesday’s polls.
Mr Munuve says the relevance of Parliament’s oversight function rests on the separation of powers between the legislative and executive arms of government.
“If you are an MP, you will find it very difficult to criticise and hold accountable a fellow party member with whom you may regularly have dinner or a drink,” he says.
In Kenya the President has sole discretion to appoint his or her ministers from outside the pool of elected ruling party politicians.
The SA constitution allows the President a similar discretionary power of appointment, but stipulates that all ministers, apart from two special instances, must be MPs.
Currently the two ministers who are not MPs are Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel.
On the elections, Mr Munuvre says his group of observers had been given a free hand to go where they pleased and had been extended every opportunity.
“We visited about 20 polling stations in Gauteng yesterday (Wednesday) and we saw no violence and no intimidation,” he said.
Mr Munuve said issues such as logistics and counting of ballots appeared to have been contained and while it was fair for parties to register objections, he believed those instances had been handled properly.
“It is a characteristic of all African elections that they are only free and fair if I win,” he says.
Mr Munuve says South Africa has matured fast as a democracy during the past 20 years.
“It is remarkable just how mature this democracy has become,” he says.
Mr Munuve is part of Kenyan opposition coalition called the Cord Alliance and was elected to his country’s parliament during its last general elections.
He has had 15 years of experience as an African Union elections observer and trainer.