PARTY

The DA's record in parliament 2013 - Lindiwe Mazibuko

Leader of official opposition says her party has worked hard to restore parliament as an independent arm of state

The DA has worked hard to restore Parliament to an independent arm of the state

Note to editors: This is the press statement that was distributed during a press conference by DA Parliamentary Leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko MP, DA Chief Whip, Watty Watson MP and DA Deputy Chief Whip,Sandy Kalyan MP on the DA's 2013 Parliamentary Review. The full analysis can be found here

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has worked tirelessly this past year to ensure that Parliament fulfils all of its constitutional obligations and retains its rightful place as the most important check and balance on the executive. 

However, a review of this year's work shows that increasingly, Parliament's functions are being hampered by the refusal of the ANC caucus to take executive oversight seriously, in a bid to protect a government increasingly out of line with the principles set out in our Constitution.

Indeed, our 2013 annual parliamentary review shows that - while the DA has had a number of significant successes in bringing accountability back to the national legislature - Parliament is still not working hard enough to fulfil its responsibilities and ensure that the real challenges facing South Africans are properly addressed.

House sittings:

The National Assembly sat only 56% of the time that it could have sat this year. The House sat for only 20 sitting weeks and did not sit on the four days of each sitting week that it could have in order to ensure it carried out its constitutional role effectively. In addition, the National Assembly was operational only for just over half of the working year, with a total of 17 weeks devoted to recess and constituency work in the provinces.

Motions for debate by MPs:

As a result of the limited time made available for members' business, only two notices of motion were actually debated. This represented just over 2 hours or (1.5%) of the 157 hours that the National Assembly sat this year. 

In total, the DA tabled the 82 motions for debate on a number of important issues ranging from the high unemployment rate to the quality of education. Only one of these motions was granted. In even this instance, the motion - on the constitutionality of the National Key Points Act - took more than a year to schedule. 

It was only as the result of the unrelenting efforts of the DA Chief Whip and DA Deputy Chief Whip, and an intervention by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, that the debate was granted at all.

Despite the numerous important issues that South Africans expect their elected representatives to consider, the ANC Chief Whip preferred to scheduled ten ceremonial debates, accounting for 16 hours and 42 minutes of House business - more than 7 times the amount scheduled for debating motions tabled by MPs.

This is squarely the fault of the Office of the ANC Chief Whip, which consistently fails to ensure that sufficient slots for debate on members' motions are identified and allocated to political parties. Because notices of motion relate to current affairs, most of which demonstrate a key failure of government, we are certain that the ANC neglects motions deliberately.

Debates of Public Importance:

The DA has been partially successful, in the face of great resistance from the ANC, in having debates of public importance considered on the floor of Parliament. These debates, unlike motions for debate by MPs, are scheduled in terms of Rule 103 by the Speaker. 

In total, the DA requested seven debates of public importance. The Speaker granted the first such debate in nearly 13 years when he acceded to our request for a debate on the landing of a private plane at the Waterkloof Airforce Base. A debate on the increasing violence against children, following the deaths of several toddlers in Diepsloot, was also granted following a DA request to the Speaker. 

Legislation:

Despite the fact that not every bill before Parliament was debated before it was passed, debating legislation took up most of the Assembly's time this year. 108 hours were spent debating the budget, one piece of legislation, and the remaining 52 bills which were passed were considered over only 27 hours. Only 20 of these bills were actually debated.

In 2013 the ANC increasingly rammed Bills through Parliament, including the controversial Protection of State Information Bill, the Transport Laws and Related Matters Bill (e-tolls bill) and the job-killing Labour Relations Amendment Bill, despite widespread opposition to them.

This was part of a generally concerning pattern of decreased timeframes for committee deliberation, a decrease in the number of Bills debated in the House, and an increase in the number of Bills referred back by the President - totalling an embarrassing total of 11 pieces of legislation. 

However, despite this, the DA has continued throughout 2013 to ensure that the quality of legislation passed by the National Assembly is improved and we have done this effectively.

The DA has actively participated in committee deliberations 

We have also worked hard to ensure that controversial bills are debated in the House, for example, we pushed for                 the Financial Services Amendment Bill to be debated in the House. The fact that it wasn't is a serious indictment on the ANC. 

The DA has also written to the President several times in 2013, petitioning him to return bills which we believe to have Constitutional flaws. The Protection of State Information Bill was referred back to Parliament as a result of such a petition. The DA also walked out of the vote on the Labour Relations Amendment Bill, which will result in job losses. As a result, a quorum could not be reached, and the bill could not be passed. Our intention was to make it clear to the ANC that it is not our responsibility to help them pass bad laws. If they wish to do so, they should gather the requisite 201 quorum from their own caucus of 264 MPs. 

Oral Questions:

A snapshot of oral questions in 2013 shows that only 17% of the oral questions asked by MPs were answered in the House; 7 Ministers did not attend a single oral question session; and 5 Ministers came to Parliament only once to answer questions.

The Ministers who did not attend their oral question session at all are as follows:

 Minister

 Portfolio      

 Number of Questions Asked

 M Mkoana-Mashabane

 International Relations

 15

 N Mpisa-Nqakula

 Defence

 14

 P Gordhan 

 Finance

 3

 S Shabangu

 Mineral Resources

 4

 R Davies

 Trade & Industry

 4

 M van Schalkwyk

 Tourism

 6

 A Motsoaledi

 Health

 7

The ANC Chief Whip, Stone Sizani, and the Leader of Government Business, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, identified only 7 question days for the entire 2013 parliamentary session, despite the fact that there were 20 sitting weeks and therefore 20 opportunities for Ministers to be held to account by Parliament. 

Despite this, the DA was still able to compel Ministers to address a number of critical issues including President Zuma's now refuted reponses to my questions in the National Assembly on his involvement in the Nkandlagate and Guptagate scandals.

Written Questions:

The DA asked 2253 written questions to Ministers in the National Assembly during the 2013 annual session; 34 times more than the ANC, which - with a caucus of 264 MPs - asked only 66 written questions this entire year. This amounted to a mere 0.25 questions per ANC Member of Parliament. 

The worst performing members of cabinet with respect to questions answered are as follows:

 Portfolio

 Questions Asked

 Replies Outstanding

 % Outstanding

 Rural Development

 62              

 20

 32.3%

 Sport 

 35

 11

 31,4%

 Defence

 123

 32

 26%

 Energy 

 53

 13

 24.5%

 Health 

 83

 19

 22.9%

 President 

 23

 5

 21.7%

 COGTA

 61

 13

 21.3%

 Public Enterprises 

 32

 6

 18.8%

 Arts & Culture 

 32

 6

 18.8%

Committees:

Not all portfolio committees, which are the engine rooms of Parliament, are functioning optimally. 

Of the 163 committee reports tabled before the house on oversight work during 2013, only 2 (1%) were actually debated. This raises concerns over how seriously Parliament takes its oversight role.

A survey of DA MPs revealed that some 23 committees had either poor or inadequate attendance by Ministers. This is despite Section 92(2) and (3) of the Constitution which provides that Members of Cabinet are individually and collectively accountable to Parliament. 

The worst performing portfolios are as follows:

 Committee

 Level of Satisfaction

 Arts & Culture; COGTA; Communications; Defence; Energy; Higher Education and Training; Home Affairs; Human Settlements; International Relations; Labour; Mineral Resources; Police; Rural Development; Social Development; Water.

 1 (Poor)

 Agriculture; Correctional Services; Public Enterprises; Science & Technology; Transport; Women, Children and People with Disabilities. 

 2 (Inadequate)

When it came to the assessment of how satisfied DA MPs were with opportunities to (a) impact the agenda, (b) put a question to the Committee and (c) elicit responses to questions posed to the presenters in committee, the three worst performers were the Committees on Defence, Economic Development, and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Conclusion:

While the ANC has actively sought to limit Parliament's ability to provide effective oversight, the DA has worked hard to ensure that this institution is at the centre of robust and constructive debate. Where Parliament has flexed its muscle, it has been because of the role played by the Official Opposition. 

We will continue to bring core issues affecting South Africans to the floor of the House, pushing for the prioritisation of issues that matter over ceremonial debates. We will continue our efforts to improve the quality of legislation being pushed through Parliament by using every mechanism at our disposal. And we will continue fully to utilise oral question sessions and portfolio committees to hold the executive to account.

It is only through doing this that we can truly ensure that the real challenges facing South Africans are addressed, corruption is rooted out of the executive, and a government for the people, by the people is fully realised.

Statement issued by Lindiwe Mazibuko MP, DA Parliamentary Leader, December 4 2013

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