DA to appeal to Thandi Modise for Q&A with Zweli Mkhize over data modelling restriction
Johannesburg - The DA is calling on National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise to allow for oral question sessions with Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize following revelations the government was withholding Covid-19 modelling data.
The Sunday Times reported on Sunday that President Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesperson Khusela Diko had conceded that the government was withholding data related to modelling projections for the Covid-19 pandemic. The modelling is used by the government to help it make decisions on reactions to the spread of the virus and the economic response needed.
There has been mixed reaction on Diko's admission with some supporting the view that the data could possibly cause public panic. Diko said the government was withholding the data to not cause alarm.
The newspaper quoted her; "We don't want to put these models out to the public as if they are the gospel truth. There is an element where we want to avoid panic in communities, and we're also mindful of the stigma of the virus," she said.
"We need to allow people to feel more in control. That is perhaps something that is not being done as well as we could because when people are armed with information, they feel like they are taking charge of their lives rather than just receiving info from the government."
The DA has disagreed with this reasoning and says the information used by the government, including the modelling, was crucial and needed to be held up to interrogation.
"This reasoning does little to inspire public confidence or promote transparency and accountability. Sharing the data and the modelling that the government is using to make key interventions in dealing with this crisis ensures that the public remains a partner in the fight against Covid-19 and will undoubtedly mean we will beat this together," said DA MP Siviwe Gwarube.
Gwarube said the party's chief whip, Natasha Mazzone, will raise the need for an oral session of Parliament to be held. The party also wants all forms of government affected by the coronavirus response strategy to be held up to scrutiny.
"The DA Chief Whip will raise this issue and argue that the Departments of Health, Social Development, Finance, Small Business Development, Labour and Employment, Trade and Industry, Police, CoGTA, and Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development should answer oral questions in a virtual meeting of the House every two weeks," she said.
"Executive accountability is important now more than it has ever been. Government actions need to interrogated and agreed to by Members of Parliament. The sittings of Parliament are open to the public and these should be no different. South Africans must be privy to the reasoning behind government actions."