ANC wants opposition front benches

2014-06-14 00:00

CAPE TOWN — More trouble looms ahead of President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address to Parliament on Tuesday.

Opposition parties are annoyed that the ANC wants to take over 10 of their front benches to accommodate members of the expanded Cabinet. Some parties say they are being made to pay for a bloated executive branch.

Meanwhile, trade union Nehawu, which represents most of the parliamentary staff, is threatening not to work on the day of the address unless grievances are addressed. That would mean no catering staff or translators will be available to serve the MPs’ needs.

Freedom Front Plus chief whip Dr Corné Mulder commented that the ANC returned to Parliament with 15 fewer MPs, but with a huge executive branch.

“The ANC now wants to take over 10 seats from the opposition to accommodate ministers and deputy ministers who want to sit in the front benches. They are entitled to 74 seats, and now they want 84.

“Nothing has been discussed with us and the arrangement is now being foisted on us,” he said yesterday. “It shouldn’t be the opposition’s problem when so many ministers are appointed. It’s unacceptable and we will complain.”

Moloto Mothapo, spokesperson for the ANC caucus, said there was nothing “strange” about the arrangement. “In any parliament in the world, the executive branch sits in the front benches. A minister who has to make a speech or answer questions doesn’t do it from the back,” he said.

DA chief whip John Steenhuizen said they also don’t agree with the arrangement.

“We feel the seating plan used for the swearing-in of MPs should remain.

“It’s a pity that such a great occasion is getting off on such a bad note. On a day when we should all put our best foot forward, to fight over seats.”

A cold war is also raging over offices for opposition members. Mulder said the FF+ returned to Parliament with the same number of MPs, four, but was told to vacate three offices.

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