The casualties of strike at Parliament

2015-11-28 08:37
Locked out Nehawu workers at Parliament. (Jenni Evans, News24

Locked out Nehawu workers at Parliament. (Jenni Evans, News24

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Cape Town – Reports on oversight visits, the Performing Animals Protection Amendment Bill and the passing of the new National Assembly rules are some of the casualties of the ongoing strike in Parliament.

On Friday, it was business unusual in Parliament with police parked outside and inside, still checking names off a list before allowing "non-striking" workers into the precinct.

This was to ensure that the business of Parliament continued, come hell, high water, or unruly strikers.

This as Parliament scrambled to finish its work before it shuts down on Friday. 

As such, Parliament has rushed through some of its work, including bills such as the Division of Revenue bill, and various reports like the one on violence against foreign nationals.

What would normally take a couple of weeks, from being passed in the National Assembly to being approved in the National Council of Provinces, has been done within a space of a week.

Working under the protection of almost a 100 police officers, some outside committee rooms and others stationed outside the public galleries of both the National Assembly and the NCOP, Parliament is determined not to let hundreds of striking workers stand in the way.

On Wednesday, the National Assembly considered the report by the committee probing violence against foreign nationals, referred it to the NCOP, and on Thursday, it was approved by the provinces.

This barely gives MPs a chance to go through what they would be debating, but because of the days lost due to strike, there is not much choice but to do the work - fast, if not efficiently.

Democratic Alliance chief whip John Steenhuisen said this week that due to the ongoing strike and time lost, some bills, including the Division of Revenue Bill, were being rushed through.

He said they were not able to properly interrogate the bills that were now being pushed through before the end of the year in Parliament.

"Members of Parliament are supposed to actually go and make sure money is spent correctly. What we can’t have is a Parliament that is prevented from influencing the budget.

"The legislation provides for Parliament and public representatives to influence the budget. When that is curtailed, that means the people’s voice is being told to quiet down. And that can’t happen."

He said while bills such as the Performing Animals Protection Amendment Bill were moved off the order paper, the fact that the finance bills were going through so late was a big problem.

"Why are they coming to us so late? Why have they been left to the very last minute? Treasury should have brought them faster."

The National Assembly considered the Finance Bill on Wednesday, and the report on the New Development Bank Special Appropriation Bill.

Parliament employees downed tools for the second time this month on Monday November 23 after negotiations over bonuses failed.

The striking workers had suspended their initial strike - which started on November 6 - on Tuesday November 17, but downed tools again when an agreement could not be reached.

They invaded committee rooms and the National Assembly on Tuesday, leading to a shutdown of Parliament, without any business being carried out except in the National Council of Provinces.

Other issues that have been casualties of the strike include:

- The National Assembly rules, which were due to be passed in the house on Wednesday. These include guidelines for dress codes for Members of Parliament.

- Reports on Higher Education oversight visits, including Consideration of Report of PC on Higher Education and Training on Strategic Plan 2015/16 – 2019/20 and Annual Performance Plan 2015/16 of Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA) and Transport Education and Training Authority.

- A bill to ensure better working conditions for performing animals has been put on the back burner due to the ongoing strike. This would add anti-cruelty legislation for animals, including performing animals in circuses and movies.

The Congress of the People have blamed the ongoing strike on the leadership of Speaker Baleka Mbete. In a statement on Wednesday, spokesperson Dennis Bloem said the parliamentary workers could not be blamed for downing tools.

"They don't just want to eat plain bread, while their superiors are having cream cakes. The blame must certainly attach to the greed that the ANC continues to manifest. Their greed is spawning a revolution. The centre will not hold."

He said whatever action was taken by Parliament against the protesters, it would only worsen the situation.

"Parliament has been in meltdown with the appointment of Baleka Mbete as Speaker. She and President Zuma have become the wrecking balls who ruined the most prestigious institution in the land."

The African National Congress on Tuesday lamented the ongoing strike and its effect on the work of Parliament.

The office of ANC chief whip Stone Sizani said in a statement that the strike had impacted negatively on the lives of ordinary people.

"The disruption, however, regrettably harms MPs' Constitutional right to perform the duties for which they were elected. The inability of the institution to execute its function and pass important decisions adversely impact on the lives of millions of ordinary South Africans," spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said.

The striking workers hope to have an outcome by Tuesday, December 1.

But for now, their struggle continues.

Read more on:    cope  |  nehawu  |  da  |  anc  |  cape town  |  parliament 2015

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