Some parties call for Parliament to return to normality
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Cape Town - Some parties expressed their wish that Parliament should go back to some level of normality within the realm of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This view emerged when MPs debated the budget vote tabled by National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise as parties commended the legislature for getting under control when the pandemic broke out.
Freedom Front Plus chief whip Corne Mulder was the first to make the call saying there should be at least 50% of public representatives in person when the House was in session.
Mulder said their work was in Parliament and it entailed interactions between the members.
“I really think it is time that Parliament should get back into normality,” he said.
“We understand the problems of Covid but really the House should not look like this. At least 50% of members should be present when Parliament is in session,” he said.
Mulder also said Parliament was not the way they functioned at the moment.
“A huge part is interaction between members in corridors and committees and when we work together. We should get back to normality within the reality. Please let’s do and get Parliament where it should be,” he said.
“It is important to get this institution get going again. We have a huge challenge to rebuild the credibility of the institution, people want to see us here doing our job,” Mulder said.
Although the EFF howled at him saying they did not need to interact with him, his sentiments were echoed by the ACDP and the UDM.
ACDP chief whip Steve Swart said his party was in support of the national legislature getting back to normality.
“If society returns to a state of normality we as leaders should be here in this House,” Swart said.
UDM’s Nqabayomzi Kwankwa said his party was in support of calls for Parliament to go back to normality.
“We are of the view as the UDM while virtual meetings have served their purpose but to some extent Parliament is beginning to lose home ground advantage due to virtual meeting.
“At some point it would be important for Parliament to consider effectiveness of virtual meetings in oversight. Conduct a study of that,” he said.
Modise said most of their work as public representatives was finding the middle.
“It is about talking out there. You don’t win any constituency position by being antagonistic, by fighting, by refusing … What we then do is we harden divisions in the country,” Modise said.
“We have a country that continues to divide itself and does not heal. I would say I have heard what members are saying,” she said.
Tabling her budget vote speech earlier, Modise said Parliament was being forced to review its priorities like any organisation facing financial constraints.
She said their baselines had been adjusted downwards in the medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) period and that meant they needed to give attention to their spending patterns.
Modise said there were things the national legislature could not continue doing.
She said they were engaging former members of the executive on their continued benefits.
"That budget for former ministers comes from Parliament and we can’t continue to do so,” Modise said.
She stated that they were also engaging with the provincial legislatures on the contribution of former members of legislatures to the public of representatives’ medical aid.
“It is to simply ask legislatures to take their burden over and allow us to continue with our own.”
Modise said they were also looking at a different method for political party funding transfers.
“We are finding a way that party funding must go directly to parties and parties can account directly to the Treasury and to whoever it is,” she said.