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The new challenges for Parliament

Either it's a statement of intent by the Zuma administration or it's the security cluster ministers on a frolic of their own attempting to retain their positions in cabinet.

The dust had barely settled on Elections 2014 when the ministers announced that they would be taking the Public Protector's Nkandla report on review. If we cast our minds back to the dying days of the fourth Parliament, the matter was kicked to touch with the hastily convened ad-hoc committee suspending its work until the new Parliament convened. Of course, there never really was sufficient time to deal with the matter, yet former Speaker Max Sisulu should be commended for his efforts to keep the report on Parliament's agenda. Sisulu himself was subsequently and extraordinarily summoned to Luthuli House to explain his decision to set up the ad-hoc committee. The ANC majority in Parliament can therefore consider itself on notice in relation to dealing with the Nkandla report.

New Speaker Baleka Mbete seems to be a rather uninspiring choice as she returns to a role she held in 2004. But, Mbete is also ANC party chairperson and in her position as one of the 'top six' within the party, she no doubt fits the bill as 'enforcer' on behalf of Luthuli House. As Speaker one has to be in a position to remain unbiased specifically when implementing the rules of Parliament fairly and in a transparent manner. Mbete will have to be very sure that she will be able to separate party from Parliament and remove her ANC chairperson's hat while in the Speaker's job. A tall order.

So, the fifth Parliament's first battle will be how to deal with the Nkandla report. Will Mbete seek to do the ANC's bidding and quash any Parliamentary scrutiny of the matter, or will any committee formed simply see the ANC use its majority to save President Zuma yet again?

Of course, should the committee be revived, its members are likely to be different. For starters, Lindiwe Mazibuko, who eloquently led the charge in Parliament, has resigned and there may well be a few Economic Freedom Fighters thrown in for good measure increasing the tensions.

Any judicial review of the report will inevitably throw Parliament's ad-hoc committee, if reconstituted, off course. The issue will be sub judice and will take years to finalise after all the legal arguments and avenues have been exhausted. It's a pretty deft way to 'bury bad news'. It was Stephen Byers, Labour Party transport secretary, who notoriously attempted to spin his way out of an embarrassing crisis for Tony Blair's government and used 11 September as a good day to 'bury bad news'. The elections might have served that purpose for Jacob Zuma and Nkandla.

So, while the state has every right to review the Public Protector's report, the basis for its review appears to be that Thuli Madonsela's report is 'irrational'. It seems very difficult to see this conclusion being sustained by a court on review, or that that court would interfere with the decision of a Constitutionally mandated body such as the Public Protector's office. So, while we need to wait for the state's papers filed at court before fully understanding its case, it would be another signal in President Zuma's new term that he intends to provide another five years of the same attempts to stymie and filibuster his way through wrongdoing and blame the bureaucrats for the lapses.

Will we be able to count on the ANC's 'number two', Cyril Ramphosa, to lead the charge against the further undermining of the Constitution and its institutions - a Constitution he was, after all, instrumental in crafting.

But while the ANC's election results seem convincing if one scratches the surface, the results tell a very different story. The ANC faces serious challenges in the cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Port Elizabeth ahead of the 2016 local government elections. The way of global governance is that cities and mayors are fast becoming the most axiomatic centres of power, controlling large budgets and developing spheres of influence which directly affect citizens' lives. Ask Rahm Emmanuel who moved from being President Obama's chief of staff to running Chicago. So, the ANC would do well to heed the underlying messages voters are sending and to understand why voter turn-out as a percentage of the eligible voting aged population has declined.

But while the ANC has its share of challenges, the Democratic Alliance (DA) seems to be making a true meal of its post-electoral party. Since the election results were announced, the party seems to be at odds with itself, divided and full of argument. Lindiwe Mazibuko has resigned and Musi Maimane remains as ambitious as ever about party leadership. Meanwhile, Helen Zille finds herself constantly having to refute allegations of party divisions.

The DA is in a tricky place of growth, yet not quite enough growth in this election to dent the ANC deeply. Where it has grown amongst the ANC's core constituency it is from a very low base. Yet, if cities are what matters then the DA might well hurt the ANC in the 2016 in key cities. Between now and then it will need to settle on its strategy and remain focused. What it cannot afford to do is make the headlines for all the wrong reasons, creating the impression that it is unable to cope with growth and younger, more ambitious members of its party and that old South African chestnut - race.

Judith February is a senior associate at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

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