An activist or a toothless Parliament? South African Parliament’s National Assembly Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation

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ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa grants strong powers to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation. This enables the Committee to play a fundamental role in overseeing the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), including its implementation of South Africa’s foreign policy. This study applied groupthink as a theoretical framework to examine the role of the Portfolio Committee in overseeing the implementation of South Africa’s foreign policy by DIRCO. In particular, based on the individual experiences of Portfolio Committee members, the study provided a definition of the nature of parliamentary oversight, identified the different oversight mechanisms used by members as well as highlighting the challenges that undermine Parliament’s oversight role. The findings revealed that holding the executive accountable, ensuring that the executive fulfils its mandate, making sure that funds allocated by Parliament are used responsibly by the executive, and serving the country’s best interests are all aspects of parliamentary oversight. The findings further suggest that Portfolio Committee members use several oversight mechanisms, including inviting the Department to make a presentation on a particular matter, putting questions to the Minister, making statements in the House, as well as making budget speeches to oversee DIRCO. The findings further revealed that Portfolio Committee members submitted 191 written questions to DIRCO Minister for the 2011 – 2012 period on foreign policy matters. Of the 191 questions, findings show that there were four associated written questions on the two identified case studies. Further examination of these questions showed that the majority sought clarity on peace and security, particularly South Africa’s role and support to in Zimbabwe and BRICS and its influence on South Africa’s foreign policy decisions, particularly at the UN Security Council. The findings also revealed factors that have hindered the Portfolio Committee from effectively carrying out its oversight role. These factors included the absence of the Minister in the Committee and the House proceedings to take oral questions and the inability of DIRCO senior officials to speak with absolute authority and clarity on given issues. Lastly, the presence of groupthink symptoms was detected in the Committee, namely, cohesiveness and insulation of the group from external expertise. Based on these findings, the study recommended areas of improvement to reinforce the Portfolio Committee’s oversight over the implementation of South Africa’s foreign policy.
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Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.
Parliament's Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation, DIRCO, South Africa -- Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Constitutions -- South Africa, Constitutional law -- South Africa, South African International Relations and Cooperation, Activists, Political -- South Africa, UCTD