Cape Town - Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana was castigated by opposition MPs for shunning them, appearing virtually for only an hour at a crucial joint sitting meant to scrutinise the Budget speech.
The virtual meeting to discuss his Budget speech kicked off shortly after 10am on Thursday.
As soon as Godongwana suggested he be excused at a later stage in the meeting because of other commitments, the opposition MPs criticised him for seemingly de-prioritising important sittings.
Freedom Front Plus MP Stephanus du Toit said: “It’s an important point we need to raise in this meeting. If I recall in most of these meetings where the minister joined virtually, he (excused) himself before the meeting was finished.
“We’re currently sitting in a situation where this Budget is one of the most important events on the calendar of this country, and every time something happens, the minister cannot give his full attention to the questions of the members.”
DA MP Dennis Ryder echoed Du Toit’s anger and said Godongwana has a propensity for shunning all select committees’ meetings in the National Council of Provinces.
“We only see him at joint meetings and only for a brief period of time,” Ryder said.
“I understand he has other commitments, but this is a once-a-year meeting where we really should be engaging with this thing deeply and properly. There are deep political questions that need asking, and we’re not going to get a chance to do that.”
DA MP Dion George said it was “unacceptable” that Godongwana can only be available for just over an hour. He said they needed time to address, in a “proper engagement”, the ousting of Eskom chief executive Andre de Ruyter and the power utility’s debt, which are interrelated topics.
Treasury’s Budget office deputy director-general, Edgar Sishi, explained the granular details of the speech.
Du Toit asked Godongwana why there was a R15000 cap on personal income tax for those who buy solar panels. George asked Godongwana why the Eskom debt relief conditions don’t include a stipulation that the company doesn’t borrow more money.
Ryder asked why the speech didn’t mention the R5bn Land Bank bailout, whereas the SAA R5bn bailout was mentioned.
He said the minister had previously indicated there would be “tough love” – or no bailouts for State-owned entities – but he went on to bail out the SA Post Office and others.
Godongwana said the Land Bank decision had previously been made by his predecessor. Godongwana’s responses were marred by poor connectivity and some of them were inaudible.