More perks for MPLs in tight times

2010-08-17 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL’S lawmakers may soon be working out in an on-site gym.

While provincial government departments have been told to tighten their belts, the ANC and Inkatha Freedom Party have voted to offer MPLs R20 000 study bursaries, drivers for ailing and elderly members and a R500 000 gymnasium.

Thee Democratic Alliance disclosed this yesterday in a report of a meeting of the KZN Legislature’s rules committee last week.

The decision still has to be voted on in the full legislature.

DA chief whip Radley Keys said the DA stands alone in opposition.

“We vehemently opposed this on the grounds that parliamentarians are among the top five percent of earners in the province — if they want to further their studies, they should do so at their own cost.

“There are many deserving students with the potential and ability to achieve at tertiary institutions but who do not have the resources to go to university,” said Keys.

He said the two parties voted to have drivers provided at taxpayers’ expense despite the fact that there is no budget allocation for this.

“These policies should not be viewed in isolation. The ANC is also driving a programme to extend sectoral parliaments at a cost of between R1 500 000 and R 2 500 000 per sitting … Our experience shows that these sectoral parliaments are canvassing sessions for the ANC.”

IFP chief whip Mntomhle Khawula criticised the DA for going to the media instead of engaging the forum on the policies.

“With regard to the bursary policy, the IFP is composed of people who were previously disadvantaged, so giving them opportunity to study further is not wrong.

“The provision of drivers needs to be monitored so that it serves the desired purpose as there are extreme cases when such provisions are needed.

“About the gymnasium, I believe that at least individuals should pay for the services,” said Khawula.

Spokesperson in the office of the speaker Wonder Hlongwa said the policies have been the subject of a “very intense” debate with the active participation of all the parties.

Hlongwa said the DA has made invaluable contributions to the bursary policy for MPLs, which he noted are offered by other legislatures.

“… Speaker Neliswa Nkonyeni said the issue of elderly and ailing MPLs is important because they are exposed to danger while driving to perform the duties of the legislature,” he added.

On the issue of the gymnasium the speaker said it is part of a “comprehensive wellness programme” which is provided for in terms of the Occupational Health Act. “Mr Keys himself is one of the architects of the programme.

“The speaker said MPLs operate in a stressful environment and it is the responsibility of the legislature to provide them with support mechanisms that are provided in terms of the act.”

Hlongwa said the legislature is used to the DA’s “posturing about the waste of taxpayers’ money whilst it is very eager to enjoy the fruits of such policies”.

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