Absent MPs must explain why they missed POSIB vote - ANC

Parliamentary caucus notes with grave concern conduct of Ben Turok and Gloria Borman


The Caucus of the African National Congress today met to receive and discuss the report on the voting and passage of the Protection of State Information Bill by the National Assembly on 22 November 2011. We are satisfied with the ANC Members of Parliament's unanimity on the Bill, which was clearly demonstrated by the large turnout in the House and their voting in huge majority.

The processing of this draft legislation by the House once again affirms the quality and healthy state of our constitutional democracy, at the heart of which is multiparty participatory democracy. While we respect the views of those who have registered their objection to this Bill, as demonstrated by various parties in the House, we remain steadfast in our conviction that the legislation is a necessary tool to guard the nation against both domestic and international security threats.

We will however continue to engage with parties and interested stakeholders on this Bill, which is now on its way to another House of Parliament, the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), for further processing.

The NCOP is enjoined by the Constitution of the Republic to comprehensively engage on the draft legislation through its own process before arriving at any decision on it. At the end of its process, the NCOP may elect to send the Bill back to the National Assembly with recommendations for further processing, or pass it for assent by the President of the Republic. Contrary to some media reports, the NCOP is not the rubberstamp of the National Assembly.

Caucus also received a comprehensive list of attendance at Tuesday's sitting, including a list of those who could not attend due to various reasons. The Office of the Chief Whip is in possession of a number of apologies - which range from ill health, international travel and unavoidable executive commitments.

Each case will be examined individually to determine its authenticity by an ANC Parliamentary Committee, which will make appropriate recommendations to the Office of the Chief Whip where action is necessary. Tuesday's sitting was declared a ‘three-line whip', a term derived from the Westminster parliamentary system which means ‘compulsory attendance'. All disciplined ANC MPs are therefore at all times expected to submit themselves to the organisation's political directives in parliament, including to declarations such as this.

We have noted with grave concern the conduct of two ANC MPs, Professor Ben Turok and Gloria Borman regarding Tuesday's important sitting. Comrade Turok opted to withdraw from the sitting after informing the Chief Whip while Comrade Borman chose to ‘abstain'. The two comrades have subsequently fielded various media questions on their decisions. 

Of great concern is that the ANC and its leadership learned of the two MPs' objection to the Bill through the media. It is worth noting that both comrades have never raised any objection to the draft legislation in at least four caucus meetings that the ANC convened to afford all MPs an opportunity to discuss and receive clarity on the draft Bill.

They have also never raised their concern with any structure or with any leader of the organisation. It is regrettable that they should defy agreed organisational decision and then raise their concerns with the media. Party discipline requires all members of the movement not to define themselves outside of the democratically agreed positions. 

The leadership of the ANC in Parliament will immediately institute an investigation to establish the facts on the matter, including seeking explanation from the MPs on the worrying pronouncements they made in the media. Should the information gathered in the investigation warrant a disciplinary action, the matter will be referred to the ANC Disciplinary Committee.

Satement issued by Moloto Mothapo, the ANC Parliamentary Caucus, November 24 2011

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