Public should be properly consulted on the feasibility of a “Single Human Rights Body”

The DA will today write to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, to have the closing date for written submissions on the “Feasibility of the Establishment of a Single Human Rights Body” extended.
The call for written submissions was first advertised on 14 May, yet the closing date for submissions is 25 May.
Parliament appointed an ad hoc committee, chaired by the late Kader Asmal, in 2006 to undertake a Review of Chapter Nine and Associated Institutions and was presented with a report a year later.
Astonishingly, the Office on Institutions Supporting Democracy (OISD), a unit located in the Office of the Speaker, has now given the public less than two weeks to provide submissions on the process to examine the feasibility of the proposed “single body”.
The institutions affected by this proposal, created by Chapter 9 of the Constitution, include the South African Human Rights Commission, the Commission for Gender Equality, the Pan South African Language Board, and others.
In 2009, Kader Asmal called the failure of Parliament to debate the committee’s report “an appalling scandal”. Now the OISD is engineering another appalling scandal by allowing the public a mere nine working days to weigh in on the process.
As recently as 2 March 2017, I repeated the DA’s call for the establishment of a parliamentary committee to receive and process reports completed by Chapter 9 institutions. Weeks earlier, I had enquired about reports by Chapter 9 institutions which had not been tabled. The Speaker assured me, in writing, that all reports had been tabled, yet no fewer than three SAHRC reports were tabled a week later, one of which dated back to 2014.
The DA welcomes the long-overdue consideration of the findings and the recommendations of the Kader Asmal Report. However, we object to the seeming haste with which the OISD wants to complete public participation. Indeed, we feel that the establishment of a parliamentary committee to receive and process reports completed by Chapter 9 institutions should be prioritised while this process is allowed to run its course.

DA requests debate of national importance on violence against women

The DA has today written to National Assembly Speaker, Baleka Mbete, requesting a debate of national public importance on violence against women in terms of National Assembly Rule 130.
A recent string of utterly shocking cases has brought to light the scourge of violence against women which is plaguing our country:
• In March 2017, 11-year old Stasha Arendse was kidnapped, raped and killed;
• On 4 April 2017, a Grade 2 girl was raped by Grade 7 boys at her school. On 28 April 2017, 22-year old Karabo Mokoena was reported missing and on 29 April 2017, her body was recovered, having been necklaced and thrown in a ditch; and
• In the last 17 days, 15-year old Nombuyiselo was burned to death; 3-year old Courtney Pieters was allegedly raped twice by a 40-year old man and then murdered; a 2-year old girl was allegedly raped and killed by her father; and Popi Qwabe, Bongeka Phungula, Lerato Moloi and an unidentified woman were all found dead in Soweto.
While this scourge has rightly received increased attention in the past days, the sad truth is that this is not a new occurrence. Women in South Africa are routinely subjected to these most horrific incidents, and they occur without the same media attention.
When this debate is scheduled we will demand that Police Minister, Fikile Mbalula, Women Minister, Susan Shabangu, and Justice Minister, Michael Masutha, partake in this debate because they have been quiet on the issue and have had no solutions to make South Africa a safer place for women, for too long.
The ANC government has completely failed in its duty to make our society safer for all members, and specifically for women, by not tackling issues of patriarchy and gender violence, further compounded by ineffective policing and often police indifference to serious cases.
The DA, therefore, believes that it is absolutely crucial for the issue to be debated by Parliament. We will require clear plans from the implicated Ministers, and we will hold them to account.
Mbalula, Shabangu and Masutha need to account to the National Assembly and indeed to the nation on why their departments have failed to date on this issue and what will be done going forward to bring this suffering to an end.
As a nation we need to stand up, men and women alike, in defence of women and say that enough is enough.

Speaker agrees to postpone MONC

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has this evening received a letter from the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, acceding to our requests to postpone the Motion of No Confidence, which was scheduled to take place on 18 April 2017.
As the DA, we welcome the postponement, as the outcome of the Constitutional Court submission, where the matter of a secret ballot for a motion of no confidence will be tested, will have a material impact on the outcome of the vote.
The Speaker has stated that “the motion of no confidence is postponed pending consideration of the matter by the Programme Committee after the constituency period.”
The DA believes that it would have been remarkably disrespectful for the National Assembly to proceed with the debate and vote while the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the Republic, was deliberating on a matter directly linked to the motion.
The postponement will give ANC Members of Parliament time to reflect on their commitment to South Africa and the people. For as long as Jacob Zuma remains at the Union Buildings, the people, especially the poor and jobless, will continue suffer.
The postponement will not stop the people of South Africa from continuing to make the call that “Zuma must go and South Africa must come first”.

DA challenges Baleka Mbete’s decision not to postpone Motion of No Confidence

The press statement by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, indicating that the Motion of No Confidence in President Jacob Zuma can only be withdrawn by the MP that sponsors it, flat out ignores our request for the motion to be postponed.
Indeed, the DA never indicated that the Motion of No Confidence will be withdrawn but only requested that the Speaker postpone the motion due to the importance of the pending Constitutional Court application. The rules clearly allow for it to be postponed.
The DA will therefore not withdraw the Leader of the Opposition’s Motion of No Confidence in President Zuma.
This side-stepping of our important request is precisely the condemnable conduct that one would expect from the ANC’s pro-Zuma Chairperson, also masquerading as the Speaker of Parliament. Mbete is determined to do everything possible to protect Jacob Zuma, and disregard the will of the people.
Rule 129(5) of the National Assembly provides as follows:
“After proper consultation and once the Speaker is satisfied that the motion of no confidence complies with the aforementioned prescribed law, rules and orders of the House and directives or guidelines of the Rules Committee, the Speaker must ensure that the motion of no confidence is scheduled, debated and voted on within a reasonable period of time given the program of the Assembly.”
This rule clearly gives the Speaker the power to schedule the motion and, therefore, also the implied power to postpone and reschedule such a motion. This differs from the scheduling of other NA business which would require the National Assembly Programming Committee to either schedule or reschedule matters.
Business that has been scheduled, such as bills and reports, have been re-scheduled in the past.
We have therefore written to the Speaker to again urge her to postpone the existing motion, pending the outcome of the Constitutional Court matter, or any further directives provided by it.
The rules provide her with this authority and she must now exercise it so that the people of South Africa can be put first again.

Parliament must not be found wanting

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, has today committed to a “process of consultation” with relevant parties in respect of the DA’s Motion of No Confidence in President Jacob Zuma – tabled on 30 March in terms of Section 102 of the Constitution.
Following Zuma’s midnight Cabinet cull, the DA also called for Parliament to reconvene immediately for this motion to be debated.
Whilst we appreciate Mbete’s duty to consult, we cannot allow her office to dawdle. It is disappointing that she is set to visit Luthuli House tomorrow and Parliament only on Tuesday. Her priorities are clear for all to see.
Historically, Mbete’s loyalty to Zuma has been unwavering and she has rarely hesitated to undermine the institution of Parliament to shield him.
South Africa is now experiencing a groundswell of opposition to Zuma and his undisguised project of state capture. Parliament cannot be side-lined by a biased Speaker who puts party before country.
Mbete must fast-track her consultation and schedule a sitting of the National Assembly immediately.

Baleka Mbete must comply with Constitutional Court judgement on Dlamini

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, must move swiftly to give effect to the Constitutional Court judgement that, on 17 March, instructed Parliament to hold Minister of Social Security, Bathabile Dlamini, to account.
The DA believes that the Speaker should, without delay, establish an ad hoc committee in accordance with the mandate set out in our notice of motion submitted on 15 March.
In its judgement, the Constitutional Court was unequivocal in finding that:
The office-holder ultimately responsible for the crisis and the events that led to it is the person who holds executive political office. It is the Minister who is required in terms of the Constitution to account to Parliament. That is the Minister, and the Minister alone.
Mbete’s indefensible bias and slavish commitment to protecting the Executive facilitated, at least for a while, the most extraordinary evading of accountability in the Nkandla matter, until the Constitutional Court put an end to it.
More recently, and without Constitutional Court intervention, an ad hoc committee established to probe the shambles at the SABC forced Minister of Communications, Faith Muthambi, to finally account for her role in the crisis.
It is our hope that the good faith and multi-party cooperation shown in this committee can be replicated, and that Dlamini can finally be forced to account to Parliament, as ordered by the Constitutional Court.
Members of the Executive routinely shirk their constitutional duty to account to Parliament and the Speaker has become their ever-willing accomplice. Now, thanks to the integrity and impartiality of the Constitutional Court, time has run out for Dodging Dlamini and Mbete has been left with no choice but to call the minister to account. We suggest she studies the Constitutional Court judgement and establishes an ad hoc committee without delay.

Baleka Mbete leaves businesses in the lurch as bill for The Speaker's Ball goes unpaid

I have reliably been informed that none of the service providers that worked on The Speaker’s Ball, a post-SONA event hosted by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, have been paid in full. Some service providers have not received any payment for the event which was held at a five-star hotel in Camps Bay on 9 February.
The DA will be reporting the matter to Parliament’s Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests as we contend that Mbete has brought the Office of the Speaker into disrepute.
More than a month after the event, several small businesses are still owed payments ranging from R70,453 for flowers and décor to R137,444 for equipment hire to R206,482 for catering and staffing.
It is understood that Western Cape service providers were engaged by a Johannesburg-based events company which, in turn, was engaged by yet another Johannesburg-based events company purporting to be acting on behalf of Baleka Mbete and Nkuli Kgositsile, both of whom were personally involved in planning the event. We are led to believe that legal action is now pending against Mbete.
The DA raised questions over The Speaker’s Ball on 7 February, seeking clarity over who was paying for the lavish event and whether or not Parliament had contributed or committed any funds, in disregard of Treasury’s cost-cutting measures. Media conjecture prompted ANC spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa, to state explicitly that it was not a party event.
It is especially concerning that the event was organised and held in the name of the Speaker, who is indeed the representative of Parliament. Tarnishing the name of the Speaker is no different to tarnishing the institution itself.
The DA is appalled that Mbete’s failure to pay her accounts has placed businesses in distress. This ugly affair is symptomatic of a self-indulgent, opulent ANC leadership that holds honest, hard-working South Africans in contempt.
Mbete must settle her dues immediately, failing which she should be called to account to Parliament on why she has disgraced the Office of the Speaker and, by extension, the Legislature.

The Speaker is very poorly “informed”

In today’s meeting of the National Assembly Programming Committee (NAPC), I repeated the DA’s call for the establishment of a parliamentary committee to receive and process reports completed by Chapter 9 institutions.
On 21 February the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, responded to my question, posed during NAPC the week before, as to whether any reports of Chapter 9 Institutions had not yet been tabled. In her letter, she said: “I am informed that all reports from Chapter 9 Institutions that were submitted to my office were tabled and referred to the relevant parliamentary structures, including reports of the South African Human Rights Commission.”
Less than one week later, no fewer than three SAHRC reports were tabled on 27 February. One of these, a report on Investigative Hearing into Safety and Security Challenges in Farming Communities in South Africa, was released in October 2014! The other two reports, into the Impact of Protest-related Action on the Right to a Basic Education in South Africa and on Transformation at Public Universities in South Africa, were released in September and December 2016, respectively.
All three reports pertain to very pertinent issues.
It is disturbing that these reports were only tabled after the DA enquired about them. It is even more disturbing that the Speaker misled Parliament and myself. Increasingly, Parliament is failing to do its job and increasingly it quietly ‘self-corrects’ once the opposition points out their failings. This is a worrisome trend.
This latest mishandling of reports shows once again the urgency of establishing a parliamentary committee to receive and process reports completed by Chapter 9 institutions, including reports completed by the Public Protector and the SAHRC.