DA chief whip Watty Watson

Cape Town - DA chief whip Watty Watson shed more light on Wednesday on his complaint that questions to President Jacob Zuma have yet to be scheduled in the National Assembly's draft parliamentary programme.

“In his over-the-top response to the DA’s legitimate concern about the non-scheduling of questions to President Zuma, the ANC’s Chief Whip (Mathole Motshekga) revealed his own ignorance of parliamentary rules,” Watson said.

“I am well aware of the fact that the National Assembly’s draft weekly programme is adopted each week by the National Assembly programming committee, hence my stated intent to raise the matter at its next meeting.”

However, the concern remained as to why “questions to the president” were not already given at least one provisional slot on the draft programme for the first term.

National Assembly rule 111 states that questions to the president have to be scheduled for a question day at least once a term.

“If no such slot is catered for in the draft schedule in accordance with the rules, the DA has an obligation to point this out.”

This was not the first time the president had not fulfilled his duty to appear before Parliament in a term. In 2011, he managed to avoid answering questions for six months, Watson said.

“The DA has a constitutional obligation to monitor President Zuma’s accountability to Parliament and raise its concerns. We cannot accept a parliamentary schedule that favours ceremonial events over the real business of scrutinising and overseeing the work of government.”

On Tuesday, Motshekga took aim at Watson for his “legendary ignorance of parliamentary processes and procedures”.

Motshekga said the draft parliamentary programme would become official only once adopted by the programming committee, following its first meeting of the year.

“Until such time, Mr Watson will do well to desist from making a spectacle of himself by publicly fretting over things without first establishing facts,” said Motshekga.

In a statement on Sunday, Watson claimed parliamentary rules were being abused to protect the president from being held accountable.

Also on Tuesday, Parliament gave the assurance that Zuma would indeed be called to answer questions in the Assembly.

“It is regrettable that a draft programme, an internal working document of the National Assembly, issued for consideration by the NA programme committee, was misconstrued 1/8by Watson 3/8 as the final programme,” it said.

The programme was subject to changes and would be finalised only following a meeting of the multi-party programming committee.

“There is no reason to assume that the draft programme is the final programme for the first quarter of 2013,” it said.

“Nor is there any reason to presume that because dates have not yet been fixed for when the president and deputy president will answer questions in the NA and NCOP (National Council of Provinces), that these occasions for oversight will not be available.” - Sapa