DA wants dates for Zuma’s appearances in Parliament

2015-01-15 17:14

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The Democratic Alliance has written to Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete asking her to convene a meeting of Parliament’s programme committee so that political parties can get concrete dates for President Jacob Zuma to answer oral questions in Parliament.

DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane says his party wants the meeting to be held before Zuma’s state of the nation address on February 12.

This is a second letter from an opposition party to Mbete over the past week.

Last Friday EFF leader Julius Malema asked the speaker to convene a special sitting of the National Assembly before February 12 so Zuma had an opportunity to complete the question session which was abandoned in August last year when EFF MPs demanded that he “pay back the money”.

Read: Mbete says ‘no’ to Malema on Zuma Q&A

Maimane told journalists this morning that the DA wants Mbete to provide them with at least five concrete dates on which Zuma will answer questions in Parliament, adding that the Speaker has a constitutional responsibility to protect Parliament’s mandate – not the president’s.

“I am asking for five days … I must give the programme committee the right to do its job. I have to negotiate in a way that says, I want parliament to work I am not here to threaten it.”

Maimane said the fact that Zuma had failed to answer questions in Parliament was a huge problem that needed to be addressed in the programming committee, which he said was the right forum to do this according to Parliament’s rules.

He added that according to rule 10 of the National Assembly the business of Parliament – all of its proceedings, which include oral questions – is suspended at the end of each annual session and only commences again once the state of the nation has happened.

Maimane criticised the EFF’s stance and distanced his party from any planned disruption of the state of the nation address, saying while the disruption may be good for high drama, it would not help to restore Parliament’s role as the apex of democracy’s mechanisms of accountability.

“That is what we need to achieve, and by ignoring the rules and disrupting the House, Parliament’s capacity to do its job is eroded, not strengthened,” he said.

He accused both the ANC and the EFF of an agenda to break down parliament.

“We still hold the view that the speaker Baleka Mbete has been sent here to protect President Zuma. We can’t allow that to happen. [But] as much as that is wrong, we can’t allow for this institution of Parliament to collapse.”

Meanwhile, the presidency has leaped to Zuma’s defence, reiterating its statements from last year that Zuma has fulfilled his parliamentary obligations.

“We wish to reiterate that although the President is not a Member of Parliament, his annual calendar always includes parliamentary work and that has been the case since his first term in 2009,” said Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj.

Maharaj said a date for the first quarter oral question time will be finalised with the National Assembly in due course and will be communicated publicly as part of the president’s programme that is released to the media regularly.

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