Pretoria – The disruptions in Parliament are undermining the ability of the legislature to hold the Executive to account, says Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
In a statement issued on Wednesday by Deputy President Ramaphosa, he reflected on the current environment in Parliament and its impact on government’s programme of transformation.
“The Executive continues to take seriously its responsibility to account to Parliament. Ministers and officials regularly engage with Parliamentary committees and participate actively in plenary debates.
“Ministers appear in the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces to answer questions. Ministers have responded well to a substantial increase in the number of questions for written reply.
“In 2009, over 2 000 written questions were put to Ministers, while by the end of 2015, the total number exceeded 4 000. Even with this significant increase, the proportion of questions answered each year has exceeded 95%,” said the Deputy President.
He said Parliament’s committees in both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces have been effective in exercising oversight, promoting public participation and undertaking the detailed work of processing legislation.
A significant development, the Deputy President noted, has been the revision of the rules of the National Assembly as part of the ongoing effort to improve its effectiveness.
Despite the valuable work done in Parliament, recent events are a grave cause for concern, Deputy President Ramaphosa said.
“Proceedings have been disrupted on a number of occasions in a manner that undermines the proper functioning of Parliament. Of particular concern, is the violent nature of some of these disruptions.
“Refusal to adhere to the rules of the Assembly undermines the integrity of the institution and demonstrates disdain for the will of the people. The efforts of a small minority of MPs to impose, through force and intimidation, their will on Parliament reflects a contempt for the principles of democracy.
“While claiming to be exercising free expression, they are effectively denying the free expression of others. The ability of the Executive to account has been undermined, particularly by efforts to prevent President Jacob Zuma from addressing the House.
“Cabinet welcomes the determination of the majority of MPs to respect the rules, uphold the dignity and advance the transformative work of Parliament. Cabinet calls on all parties to work together to ensure that the rules and procedures are applied consistently, fairly, and without fear, favour or prejudice. As the Executive, we reject in the strongest terms any attempt, in whatever form, to suppress debate or silence dissent,” he said.
The Deputy President said the Executive is committed to play its part in ensuring that Parliament is a forum for all national debates amongst political parties elected by the people to represent them. Debates must advance the broad objectives of the National Development Plan, as this will ensure that South Africa has a government by and for the people.
Cabinet, Deputy President Ramaphosa said, will continue to work with Parliament to improve people’s lives.
“It will endeavour to improve communication with Parliament and all its committees and deepen accountability. Members of the Executive will remain open to constructive criticism, robust debate and strong oversight.
“We will continue to seek to resolve differences and problems through dialogue and collaboration, in the spirit of our Constitution and in keeping with our democratic traditions.”