Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille said on Tuesday the parliamentary surveillance cameras were not monitored in the early hours of Sunday when the fire broke out in Parliament.
“Yes, it is correct that there was no body to monitor the TV cameras from 2am in the morning when the person entered the building until 6am when the police arrived, and for that I think Parliament will have to answer and the Secretary of Parliament.
“I cannot, unfortunately, answer that,” De Lille said during the meeting with MPs.
She made the statement after some MPs were outraged when questions they posed over a period of more than one and half an hour in connection with various issues related to the fire that gutted the National Assembly and the Old Assembly were unanswered at the meeting.
When it was time to answer questions, Acting Secretary of Parliament Baby Tyawa asked that they respond in writing.
“We have been listening carefully with our managers. We will because we don’t have a written report,” Tyawa said.
“Instead of a narrative report will liaise with the committee secretary to take up all points raised and put together a report for the committee. I am asking the committee to allow us to do that, study the points raised by the members,” she added.
Co-chairperson of the committee Dikeledi Mahlangu asked for a time they would respond in writing and Tyawa said: "We will adhere to seven days”.
IFP chief whip Narend Singh said it was unfortunate they could not get responses at least to some of their questions.
“I believe that some of the questions could have been answered by the Acting Secretary of Parliament because there were media conferences and answers have been given to the questions raised,” he said.
“It is rather unfortunate that we can’t receive any response to anything at all,” Singh said.
Mahlangu said the MPs must not feel pressured but if possible, the written should be available in less than seven days.
“That report will be informed and helpful to have a way forward,” she said.
EFF MP Omphile Maotwe would hear none of that, saying it could not be correct to get responses after seven days.
“This is a very serious and urgent matter to come to and give clarity. Why are we convened? We are setting a wrong precedent.” Maotwe said.
DA deputy chief whip Siviwe Gwarube said there was a reason the questions were asked, otherwise they could have sent their concerns in writing.
“I find it absolutely mind boggling, for instance, the accounting officer of Parliament has not said a single word about this incident,” Gwarube said, noting that Tyawa had declined to make an input earlier when asked to do so.
However, DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone said she felt strongly that a cart was put before the horse when the meeting was convened before the chief whips had met with the presiding officers.
National Assembly Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula said the chief whips would be given an opportunity to interact with a report to be presented at their meeting.
Mapisa-Nqakula noted that some of the questions could not be responded to, but they could have given a response had they been asked although the information was scanty.
“It is unfortunate that we were not given the opportunity. I am not moaning about it,” she said before asking to be excused to attend another meeting with chief whips.
The revelation by De Lille comes amid claims by Nehawu that the parliamentary protection services personnel were not on duty on the fateful day.
The union has claimed that Parliament took a decision not to pay for work done on weekend and holidays and that it was cutting down on personnel due cost-cutting measures.
On Monday, Mapisa-Nqakula claimed Tyawa had informed her that there was no such a directive, and then accused Nehawu of being irresponsible and disingenuous.