Speaker roasts lawmakers

2012-05-29 21:57
Cape Town - Speaker of Parliament Max Sisulu took aim at lawmakers on Tuesday for drafting "poor quality" legislation.

He also roasted them for being absent from meetings, and accused Cabinet ministers of not answering questions on time.

Sisulu said during Parliament's budget vote speech in the National Assembly that more and more legislation was being returned to the National Assembly for correction after it had been found to be unconstitutional by the courts.

"I am concerned that more and more legislation is returned to the National Assembly for correction, either section 75 legislation which the NCOP has recommended that the Assembly amends to make it constitutional, or legislation that was found to be unconstitutional by the courts," Sisulu said.

"This speaks both to the constitutionality of the legislation passed, as well as its quality."

Sisulu said the poor quality of legislation was often the consequence of "inadequate scrutiny".

Sexual Offence Act

He said a recent judgment of the Western Cape High Court in the director of public prosecutions, Western Cape versus Prins, "highlighted and reiterated" that the legislation that was passed had a "huge impact" on the public.

The court held that as 29 sexual offences listed in the Sexual Offence Act did not contain a penalty clause, an accused found guilty of any of these offences could not be sentenced.

These 29 offences included various types of rape as well as many sexual offences against children.

"We must take the utmost care to ensure that the law shields and protects the most vulnerable in our society," Sisulu said.

"As the subject matter of legislation becomes more sophisticated and highly technical, our Parliament and members must become more professional.

"This requires the necessary capacity both in terms of technical support by the officials and capacity building for members."

Drafting unit

Sisulu said the report of the Independent Panel Assessment of Parliament noted that Parliament did not have sufficient capacity when it came to drafting and amending legislation.

The Constitutional and Legal Services Office was subsequently instructed to establish a legal drafting unit.

A proposal had been approved and the process was now underway to staff the unit and "get the ball rolling".

Parliament had an "abundance" of willing and able stakeholders, including academia, research institutions, special interests groups and civil society which were able to ensure access to independent resources of specialised knowledge and information.

"We should make maximum use of them," he said.

Sisulu said ever since the first Parliament, the rules committee had been discussing the issue of the absence of members from the sittings of the House and its committees.


On a number of occasions, he had expressed concern about the lack of a policy on members' attendance and enjoined parties to speed up the process to finalise the matter.

"Attendance affects the core business of Parliament, as many a time the business of the House cannot proceed without a quorum, and a solution has to be found," he said.

"There should be an implementable policy governing members' attendance, otherwise the wrong signal will continue to be sent to the public, which is that there are no consequences for members who do not attend the proceedings of Parliament."

Two years ago, a draft attendance policy was referred by the parliamentary oversight authority to the chief whips forum for processing, Sisulu said.

"After I strongly raised my concerns at the last two joint rules committee meetings, it has been agreed that the matter will be finalised at the next meeting on July 31."

Constitutional obligation

Sisulu also took ministers to task for not fulfilling their "constitutional obligation" of answering parliamentary questions on time.

He said he had written to several ministers to remind them of their constitutional obligation but the improvement thus far had only been "marginal".

"The area of questions to the executive has continuously proven to be a challenge," Sisulu said.

"I have written to several ministers to remind them of their constitutional obligations, but the improvement thus far has only been marginal."

Sisulu said he had directed MPs to table proposals at the National Assembly rules committee that would enhance and facilitate the questions process.

He had also requested a meeting with the leader of government business, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, so that together they could find a way to address "this important matter".

"Until the rules have been changed, I urge that the rules be complied with," he said, to shouts of "hear hear" from opposition benches.
Read more on:    max sisulu  |  legislation

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