Gone in 14 minutes: Parliament in the time of the coronavirus

2020-03-18 16:54
EFF MP Laetitia Arries wears a mask and gloves while some of her colleagues are also sporting gloves during the National Assembly's final sitting before Parliament is suspended due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

EFF MP Laetitia Arries wears a mask and gloves while some of her colleagues are also sporting gloves during the National Assembly's final sitting before Parliament is suspended due to the Coronavirus pandemic. (Jan Gerber)

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No debate. No declarations. No points of order - but some gloves and a face mask.

The final sitting of the National Assembly lasted just 14 minutes, in which time it processed four matters, including the Division of Revenue Bill.

Several MPs wore gloves, while EFF MP Laetitia Arries wore a mask.

The DA's benches were particularly sparsely populated, after the party's chief whip Natasha Mazzone on Tuesday indicated that she had instructed most of their MPs to stay away.

For the Division of Revenue Bill, several opposition parties noted their objections, and MPs were then required to register their attendance. A total of 254 MPs, excluding speaker Thandi Modise, were present, enough for the required quorum.

The Bill was passed and the other business – draft notices and schedules determining the rates of remuneration payable to magistrates and judges – were concluded without any fuss.

According to a statement from Parliament, President Cyril Ramaphosa in February informed the presiding officers that he had received annual salary recommendations from the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers.

Salaries

The recommendation was that salaries of magistrates be increased by 4%, effective from 1 April 2019, and salaries of Constitutional Court judges, and judges of other courts, be increased by 3%, also effective from 1 April 2019.

However, considering the serious economic challenges the country is experiencing and its currently constrained fiscus, Ramaphosa said he did not intend to increase the salaries of any of the judges. He did, however, intend to increase the salaries of magistrates by between 2.8% and 4.5%.

Approval is needed from both Houses of Parliament for the proposed remuneration to become effective. It can now be effected, since the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) already approved the draft notices and schedules on 12 March.

After the two notices and schedules were approved, Modise said: "This concludes the business of the day…"

Take your seats

MPs noisily started to leave their seats.

"Please take your seats!" Modise demanded sternly, before reminding them that Parliament had decided to suspend its programme in light of the coronavirus until further notice.

She also called on them as leaders to set an example.

As MPs left the chamber, some greeted each other by bumping elbows.

The sitting was attended by the deputy president, David Mabuza. He would have answered questions in the National Assembly on Thursday, were it not for the suspension.

The NCOP will have its final sitting on Thursday, where it will deal with Tshwane's administration, before it, too, will be suspended.

Read more on:    cape town  |  coronavirus
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