Modise declines DA’s request for urgent debate on government’s Covid-19 vaccination plan
Cape Town – National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise has again declined the request from the DA asking for an urgent debate on South Africa's Covid-19 vaccination plan.
Parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said Modise declined the request by DA chief chief whip Natasha Mazzone that she convene an urgent special sitting to establish an ad hoc committee to oversee the roll-out of the country’s vaccination programme.
Mothapo said in terms of the rules the establishment of an ad hoc committee during a recess period did not necessitate a sitting of the House.
"The Speaker may establish such a committee in consultation with parliamentary stakeholders if she is satisfied that a matter necessitating attention may not be carried out through existing parliamentary committees.
"The Speaker has noted that Ms Mazzone's correspondence does not provide reasons why an ad hoc committee, and not the portfolio committee on health, is a suitable mechanism to deal with this matter," he said.
Mothapo also said Modise has stressed that a vaccine roll-out plan was a matter of urgent concern to the nation, and Parliament should exercise its constitutionally mandated role.
"In this regard, the portfolio committee on health, which has been pursuing a parliamentary oversight programme over government's health-related intervention on the Covid-19 pandemic, must immediately deal with this matter.
"The Speaker has directed the House chairperson responsible for committees and oversight to ensure that the portfolio committee on health is urgently convened to attend to the matter of the vaccine roll-out and provide her with regular updates in this regard."
Mazzone first made the request on December 29 following the national address by President Cyril Ramaphosa, saying the urgent debate should be conducted before or on 31 December.
In her response, Modise said the debate should take place in February and that an appropriate date would be determined by the National Assembly Programme Committee.
However, Mazzone asked Modise to reconsider her decision and allow an ad hoc committee to be formed to monitor the vaccine rollout.
She said the briefing on the vaccination plan by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Sunday raised more questions than answers, a move that prompted her party to submit a Promotion of Access to Information Act application.
"The simple fact of the matter is that Parliament has a critical oversight role to play and cannot wait until well into the middle of the first quarter to perform this vital duty," she said.
"To expect a debate of national importance to still hold relevance when the plan should have already been enacted at that time is foolish and would serve little purpose.
"There are aspects of the Covid-19 vaccination plan that deserves serious and immediate interrogation," Mazzone said on Monday.