President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Thuma Mina (Send me) call apparently includes his ministers’ attendance at parliamentary committee meetings and now the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) documented a rise in ministers’ attendance at these meetings.
Comparing the first six months of 2017 to the same period in 2018, PMG noticed a 9.7% increase in attendance in 2018.
“Both these periods had their shake ups: the ‘midnight reshuffle’ in March 2017, and President Ramaphosa’s Cabinet announcement in February 2018. A comparison shows a 9.7% increase in executive attendance in 2018.
“Of the 11 ministers and deputies with no recorded appearances, six were relieved of their duties on 15 February 2018,” reads a statement from the PMG.
According to the PMG’s records, the member of the executive who most diligently attended committee meetings was the Minister of Water Affairs and Sanitation Gugile Nkwinti, who attended 10 meetings.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana attended eight meetings, and Social Development Minister Susan Shabangu and Police Minister Bheki Cele each attended six.
“Attendance of Cabinet members in committees has been historically underplayed, but with the assertion of the oversight role of parliamentary committees, the pressure on ministers to attend key committee meetings has seen a rise,” reads the PMG’s statement.
“This was highlighted by the furore caused by the lack of appearances by then Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and her home affairs counterpart, Malusi Gigaba, during parliamentary committees’ efforts to get clarity on the Sassa debacle and the Gupta family naturalisation.”
On March 8 this year, not a single member of Cabinet was present in the National Assembly for members’ statements – one of the ways in which Parliament exercises oversight over the executive.
Furthermore, the only deputy minister (deputy ministers are not members of Cabinet) present was Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi, who is a National Freedom Party member.
Opposition MPs were outraged and the ANC asked Speaker Baleka Mbete to take the matter up with deputy president David Mabuza. The situation later improved.
According to the PMG, Mbete indicated earlier this year that she had written to Mabuza, to “complain about the absence of ministers during question time in the National Assembly”.
“The deputy president responded in April 2018, announcing measures to deal with non-attendance including an attendance roster, and three ministers appointed to monitor their contemporaries. We hope that the attendance roster will be made public,” reads the PMG’s statement.
“Unknown to the public, a 2014 joint rules committee decision requires House attendance to be published once a year. But four years on, Parliament still has not once achieved this. The Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) has been chasing this up for years without success.”