Legislature insists on business class travel

2008-04-17 00:00

Members of the KZN Legislature have asked for a review of their benefits, while also asking to travel on business class flights when on official duty.

Speaking during a debate into the 2008/09 budget of the Legislature, Jo-Ann Downs of the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) said it is "unacceptable" that members of the Legislature have to travel on economy class.

She said that if MPLs are prohibited from travelling business class, the same should apply to other senior government officials.

Bongani Msomi of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) echoed Downs’s sentiments, adding that economy class flights are "uncomfortable".

Some MPLs also called for an increase in the allowances paid to them. These include cellphone allowances, which they say have not come under review in four years.

Another demand was that catered food for the Legislature accommodates people with diabetes.

Speaker of the Legislature, Willies Mchunu, responded by saying that the issue of benefits is being addressed at a national level and that it needs more time.

Mchunu earlier announced that the plans for the construction of the new Legislature complex in Pietermaritzburg will soon commence.

"The building of the new Legislature complex, boasting adequate facilities to accommodate the needs of the modern Legislature, is not a matter of choice. It just has to be done. Today I wish to inform this house that this is going to be a reality."

Mchunu said a feasibility study was concluded in October last year, adding that a report of the study has been forwarded to the national Treasury. This, he said, has resulted in ongoing talks between the provincial and national treasuries.

The Democratic Alliance’s Radley Keys objected to the construction of the complex, calling the building "a R600 million palace" for the members of the Legislature.

"The ANC has succeeded where no other party has in that it has doubled the spending of this house in the four years it has been in power."

Mchunu also came under fire from the IFP, who accused him of being biased in favour of the ANC by using the Legislature’s outreach programme as a canvassing tool for the ANC.

IFP MPL Henry Combrinck accused Mchunu of singling out opposition members for disciplinary action, which in most cases includes some of the members being removed from the Legislature sittings.

In his response, Mchunu said: "I am prepared to resign, if any member who has been chased out can prove that I did so in contravention of the rules". He said it was untrue that he has not disciplined ANC members.

bmbanjwa@witness.co.za

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