In a clever and calculated move the ruling ANC is further ensuring that the whole investigation into the arms procurement process falls under its direct control, and that it dictates the conditions under which the investigation continues. The danger exists that this investigation will now be completely diluted and will be controlled by pro-ANC bodies, persons and parliamentary committees.
The events of the past week indicate the following strategy by the ANC:
1. The Executive charges unhindered forward with steps to determine who will or will not take part in the investigation into the arms procurement process, whilst Parliament's views on this are ignored.
2. The ANC spokesperson on Public Accounts, Mr Andrew Feinstein, who has up till now not faltered on the principle of who (and how) should be involved in the investigation, is unceremoniously relieved of his duties and replaced with a senior ANC office-bearer.
3. The wilful undermining of the oversight role of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) in this investigation, by involving other parliamentary committees, all of whom are chaired by the ANC. Consequently the role and influence of SCOPA, the only parliamentary committee under opposition chairmanship, is effectively diminished and limited. It can be expected that the remaining ANC members on this committee will now have to follow explicit orders from the party, or follow the route of Mr Feinstein. Party-politics is being imported into a non-partisan institution, which does not bode well for financial accountability and the fight against corruption in the public sector.
The ANC may have won this round, but democracy has been dealt a crippling blow, something for which South Africa will yet pay a high price. Ultimately this sort of abuse of power returns negative dividends, as history proved to the previous regime.