Current situation in Parliament will be reviewed before third term - Ramaphosa

BY CHARL BOSCH - JUNE 1, 2016

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has said cabinet will undertake a number of measures to review the current situation in Parliament before the third term commences in August.

In a statement issued by the Presidency on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said Parliament remains a vital “guarantor” of democracy to the Executive, adding that committees in the National Assembly and National Council of Province (NCOP) have been effective in oversights and promoting public participation during the first two terms.

“The Executive continues to take seriously its responsibility to account to Parliament. Ministers and officials regularly engage with Parliamentary committees and participate actively in plenary debates. Ministers appear in the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces to answer questions,” Ramaphosa said.

“Ministers have responded well to a substantial increase in the number of questions for written reply. In 2009, over 2 000 written questions were put to Ministers, while by the end of 2015, the total number exceeded 4 000. Even with this significant increase, the proportion of questions answered each year has exceeded 95%”.

Ramaphosa however remarked that government remains concerned at the persistent interruption of sittings by MP’s during the said terms, saying individuals failing to respect the rules of the National Assembly “undermine the integrity of the institution” and show “disdain for the will of the people”.

“The efforts of a small minority to impose, through force and intimidation, their will on Parliament reflects a contempt for the principles of democracy. While claiming to be exercising free expression they are effectively denying the free expression of others,” he said in possible reference to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

Last month, proceedings during President Jacob Zuma’s questions and answer session became violent after EFF members hurled water bottles, hard hats and exchanged punches with Parliament’s Protection Service, who had been called in to remove MP’s for trying to block the President answering questions.

In February, Zuma’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) descended into chaos when EFF MP’s staged a walkout in his protest over his refusal to provide clarity on the sacking of Nhlanhla Nene as Finance Minister in December last year.

Barely a month later, members of the Democratic Alliance (DA) also left the chamber during a heated questions and answers sitting, again over Zuma failing to divulge details for the decision to replace Nene with little-known African National Congress (ANC) back-bencher, David van Rooyen.

“Cabinet calls on all parties to work together to ensure that the rules and procedures are applied consistently, fairly, and without fear, favour or prejudice. As the Executive, we reject in the strongest terms any attempt, in whatever form, to suppress debate or silence dissent,” Ramaphosa continued.

“The Executive is committed to play its part in ensuring that Parliament is a forum for all national debates amongst political parties elected by our people to represent them. Members of the Executive will remain open to constructive criticism, robust debate and strong oversight”.