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Cape Town - A week before President Jacob Zuma delivers the State of the Nation Address at a joint sitting of Parliament, MPs met on Tuesday for a “refresher” training workshop to sharpen their lawmaking skills and remind them of their duties.
Deputy speaker Nomaindia Mfeketo admonished parliamentarians about their sometimes lax attendance record, saying it “reflects very badly on the decorum of Parliament… and to the people we represent”.
She added that in future there might be “consequences” for MPs who missed meetings of the House of Assembly and committees.
Absenteeism among MPs has long been a concern, with policing of attendance largely left to the parties themselves.
Last year, Speaker Max Sisulu said “there should be an implementable policy governing members’ attendance, otherwise the wrong signal will continue to be sent to the public”.
A draft policy to combat absenteeism was proposed, with measures that included docking MPs’ salaries, but it has yet to be adopted.
Mfeketo also said bills that came back from the courts for correction were a problem that should be resolved. Sisulu had complained that the sometimes the poor quality of legislation was caused by “inadequate scrutiny” of bills by members.
She reminded MPs that Parliament existed for one reason: “To solve the problems and meet the needs of our people.”
Mfeketo added that due to the complex nature of the socio-economic challenges facing the country, MPs were expected to “stretch themselves beyond the areas of their expertise to areas where they are prepared to learn new ways of doing things”.