ANC MPs get Stone(d)

2013-08-25 14:00

Chief whip blasts absentees after they ‘hand power to opposition’.

ANC chief whip Stone Sizani this week blasted truant MPs for in effect handing over the power to pass bills in the National Assembly to the opposition.

The roasting came at an emergency caucus meeting Sizani called in the chamber shortly after the passage of a crucial piece of crime-fighting legislation – dubbed the DNA Bill – was nearly derailed on Thursday because the required quorum of 201 MPs was not reached.

Sources said Sizani delivered a blistering message, telling the party’s MPs that if they weren’t interested in helping govern the country they should resign and go home.

He made the point that the ANC, with its strong majority of 265 out of 400 MPs, could pass bills without other parties’ help. But he said truancy and ill-discipline in effect hands the power to pass new laws to the opposition.

It is understood a whip was among those absent. Sizani insisted a register be taken before ANC MPs could leave the chamber and those whose names don’t appear on it will be asked to explain themselves.

Sizani told City Press yesterday he knew some MPs were angry with him for trying to “boss them around”.

“People complained I was abusing them by detaining them, when they were the obedient ones who were present. No one is going to get off scot-free.

“I have spoken to the SG (ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe) and he said: ‘You must run Parliament. We can’t do it from up here (Luthuli House).’”

Sizani on Thursday also lambasted the DA for “silly obstructionist tactics”.

All parties backed the bill, which allows for DNA to be taken from convicted offenders and charged suspects. A national database can then be created to track and convict offenders.

When the DA questioned the quorum, only 175 members were in the house, rising to 193 after the bells were rung to summon MPs who were elsewhere in the precinct – but this was still not enough.

Sizani accused DA MPs of staging a walkout, refusing to press the buttons that electronically register their presence and raising “frivolous points of order” to frustrate voting.

DA chief whip Watty Watson denied these allegations.

“They’re devoid of all truth.

“Why would the DA frustrate voting on a bill it backed? It is the ANC causing the lack of quorum.”

Watson has written to ask National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu to investigate the way the vote was handled, and how the House chairperson, Ben Skosana, could “simply declare there was a quorum”.

When parliamentary officials did a manual headcount there were 230 MPs and the bill finally went through.

Parliament has been swamped by a deluge of bills and there aren’t enough committee days and plenary sittings for them all to be dealt with before year end.

There are currently 33 bills before the House, 20 of which landed after June 20, including private members’ bills – and more are in the pipeline,

with only nine plenaries scheduled so far.

Discussions are under way with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Parliament’s leader of government business, about prioritising urgent bills.

Parliament is also considering sitting late into the night and on Fridays, which is usually reserved for constituency work.

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