Take Ramaphosa’s explanation of Parli with a pinch of salt - Steenhuisen

BY CHARL BOSCH - JUNE 2, 2016

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has described Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s assessment of the current situation in Parliament, as one that should to be taken with a pinch of salt given his absence from the National Assembly.

In a statement released by the Presidency on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said Parliament remains a vital “guarantor” of democracy to the Executive, and that government continues to take its responsibility on accounting to Parliament seriously.

“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%”.

Speaking in a statement, DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa’s remarks however contradicts cabinet’s conduct in and towards Parliament, as a number of ministers fail to give responses to questions at all, while President Jacob Zuma barely meets his allocation of questions with each appearance.

“While there may have been an increase in the amount of written questions submitted, the actual answers are usually withheld by misrepresentations of the rules, the misuse of the sub judice rule, indefinite deferment of replies, referral to provincial legislature and departments and substandard information,” Steenhuisen said.

“With the local government elections just months away, it is no surprise that Ministers within the governance cluster in particular have utilised these tactics, which are undoubtedly a deliberate attempt to hide government’s poor service delivery record before South Africans head to the polls in August”.

He also remarked that the ongoing blocking of amendments during the 2016/17 budgeting phase, refusal by ANC members of the Rules Committee to compromise on proposals regarding questions without notice, and failure to clampdown on insults and unparliamentarily language being hurled inside the Chamber, is evident that Parliament has become a mess.

“The Deputy President’s attempt to brush this mess under the carpet with a statement is an insufficient substitute for actual political engagement with other parties in Parliament on institutional reform and ensuring that those who serve the institution meet their constitutionally mandated oversight and legislative obligations,” Steenhuisen said.