Mbete says no to DA's request to reconvene National Assembly for power crisis

2019-03-26 17:22
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National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete has denied the DA's request to reconvene the House to establish an ad hoc committee on Eskom.

On Monday, the DA asked that Parliament reconvene as part of its campaign around the issue of Eskom's rolling blackouts.

"While the ANC national government is in disarray, we believe Parliament, as the legislative arm of government, must step up to the task and provide solutions before it is too late. Indeed, it is a breach of the constitutional duty of members of Parliament (MPs) to be out campaigning when they should be rolling up their sleeves and implementing solutions to address our national energy crisis," DA leader Mmusi Maimane said in a statement.

In a separate statement released on Tuesday, it emerged that Mbete replied to a written request from DA chief whip John Steenhuisen for the National Assembly to reconvene.

"In her letter to Mr Steenhuisen, Ms Mbete said she agreed the prevailing energy crisis was a very serious matter for the nation," reads the statement.

"However, existing portfolio committees were empowered to deal with the issues at Eskom. These included the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises, which conducted an extensive inquiry on Eskom in 2018."

According to Mbete, the relevant committees could take up the matter if necessary but there was no need for the National Assembly to be reconvened. Even if an ad hoc committee was required, it would not require the House to reconvene. 

Although the National Assembly had risen on March 20 and was dissolved, it remained competent to function in terms of the Constitution. 

According to the National Assembly's rules and procedures, relevant committees, including ad hoc committees, could convene to discuss matters and potentially report if needed.

This did not require the National Assembly to meet first.

Steenhuisen did not take kindly to Mbete's rejection.

Lights out

"It is inconceivable that the lights are out at Parliament while they are out across the country, too. The Speaker has a Constitutional obligation to ensure that the Legislature resolves the problems that the Executive is unable or unwilling to deal with," he said in a statement.

Steenhuisen said Parliament could take a number of measures to deal with the crisis, like passing urgent legislative amendments and summoning the relevant officials and ministers to account for the current crisis.

"Despite this looming catastrophe, the ANC has no plan resolve the problems at Eskom and it is now patently clear that they have no intention of using the mechanisms at their disposal to work on developing one," he said.

"I will write back to the Speaker, drawing her attention to the specific rules which empower her to approach the whips of parties represented in Parliament to establish this Ad Hoc Committee and to call Parliament back to session. The DA is prepared to form part of the solution and table our proposals on Eskom which will fix the mess that has been created over years of corruption and mismanagement."

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Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  eskom  |  load shedding
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