Meeting probing Parliament fire postponed due to Mapisa-Nqakula, Cele, De Lille being unavailable

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  • The Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament was postponed due to ministers and Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula's "unavailability".
  • The committee was due to hear from the police about the fire that razed parts of Parliament.
  • The DA wants action against the ministers and for the committee to do its oversight work.

A meeting seeking answers about the fire at Parliament had to be postponed because Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Police Minister Bheki Cele and Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille were unavailable. 

Almost three weeks after the fire, many questions remain.

Opposition MPs were looking forward to Friday's meeting of the Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament, particularly to question the police.

However, by Thursday evening, it emerged the meeting would be postponed.

DA deputy chief whip Siviwe Gwarube asked for an explanation.

WATCH | Drone footage shows extent of devastating fire that ripped through Parliament

Committee co-chairperson Peace Mabe informed members the meeting was postponed because the MPs had not received the documents for the meeting and because Mapisa-Nqakula, De Lille, Cele and De Lille's deputy, Noxolo Kiviet, were unavailable.

"This is unacceptable and a complete disregard for Parliament's oversight role," Gwarube said in a statement.

Police minister Bheki Cele.

"The DA will be writing to the chair of chairs, Mr Cedrick Frolick, and the leader of government business, Deputy President David Mabuza, to urgently intervene on this matter. The ministers must be reprimanded by Parliament as a matter of urgency and the chairs of this committee sternly reminded of their role in holding the executive to account."

She added the committee summoned Cele to account for the security breach that led to the burning down of Parliament while under the 24-hour guard of the police.

"The minister is yet to provide an account to Parliament since the fire broke out and a suspect was arrested," Gwarube said.

READ | On-duty cop asleep in control room as Zandile Mafe spent '30 hours' inside Parliament

On Friday, News24 revealed the suspected arsonist, Zandile Mafe, spent nearly 30 hours inside the parliamentary building, setting off dozens of alarms with no police action. He allegedly set fire to a pile of boxes nearly 26 hours after he first gained entry.

Gwarube said Mapisa-Nqakula accounted to the committee.

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula Photo: Phil Magakoe/Gallo
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

"As the head of this institution, she ought to understand the importance of prioritising appearing before this body, especially when the discussion centres around the failure of systems to prevent this devastating fire.

"For too long, Parliament has been ignored by the executive and often as an optional accountability mechanism. That can no longer be allowed to happen.

READ | Parliament fire: CCTV was working but no one was watching. Where were the police?

"Between Parliament, the South African Police Service and the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, the truth about what happened that day must be sought and those responsible need to be held accountable. That cannot happen when the committee simply accepts flimsy excuses for non-attendance."

While Mapisa-Nqakula was "unavailable" to account to Parliament, she did find time to brief her party, the ANC, along with National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo and ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina.

Patricia de Lille has warned of senior public serv
Patricia de Lille.

"The Speaker, chairperson of the NCOP and the chief whip briefed the national officials regarding the situation at Parliament, the investigations being undertaken and measures being taken to ensure that Parliament continues with its work, including alternative arrangements for the State of the Nation Address and the Budget Speech," read the ANC national working committee's report to the party's national executive committee (NEC).

The NEC met on Thursday and Friday.

Cele, Mapisa-Nqakula and Kiviet are all NEC members.

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