Cape Town - The delays in scheduling snap debates on urgent matters of national importance came under scrutiny in Parliament on Thursday.
This as it emerged in the programme committee that time had not been found for the urgent debate on the failed extradition of persons implicated in corruption, sponsored by GOOD party MP Brett Herron, due to a packed programme.
National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula agreed to Herron’s request that was submitted on April 11, days after South Africans were informed that the United Arab Emirates had rejected the country’s request to surrender Atul and Rajesh Gupta to stand trial for state capture.
Herron had proposed the debate on “the failure of the government to extradite persons implicated in corruption, as demonstrated by the recent case in the UAE and the consequences thereof”.
On Thursday, programme committee whip Mina Lesoma said they had previously indicated that this quarter was short.
Lesoma showed the MPs how packed the programme was from this week till two weeks later, mainly with budget vote debates.
“We are saying we will see whether there is a possibility in June,” she said.
“We are seized with the matter; unfortunately, it seems there is no space. We will try our best, as we indicated that week,” Lesoma said about slotting Herron’s snap debate into the programme.
Herron noted that parliamentary Rule 130 provided for debating matters that were urgent and of national importance.
“Throughout there is urgency and it must be a recent occurrence. I was surprised in May we had a debate on grey-listing because grey-listing took place in February,” he said in reference to a motion that was submitted by the DA.
Herron said the request for the snap debate was made in April, but time for its debating was now likely to be in June.
“You can’t have a rule that deals with urgent matters of recent occurrence or national importance that does not get implemented,” he said.
DA deputy chief whip Annelie Lotriet said the operative word in Rule 130 was “urgent.
“Regardless of time allocated, if it is urgent, it must be added over and above the rest of the programme. It is something we honestly have to look at and if it is urgent, it must be dealt with immediately within the next week or so,” Lotriet said.
ANC deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude said: “I don’t know if the member says we must find time. I don’t see it. There are budget votes that start at 10am unless we say we want a normal sitting before budget votes.”
She said the programme committee technical team should be requested to look for time for the debate on the failed extradition of the Guptas.
“We are currently dealing with budget votes so I have never seen in any way where we disrupt the agreed programme of budget votes to accommodate anything that is urgent unless we say cancel budget votes for a specific date.
“That is highly impossible,” Dlakude said.
IFP chief whip Narend Singh said: “If we look hard enough, we will find time.”
“Once the Speaker says yes, we must find time,” Singh said before agreeing with Dlakude that the technical team should find time to slot the urgent debate.
House chairperson Cedric Frolick said they would work with the technical team since Mapisa-Nqakula gave the go-ahead for the matter to be debated.