File picture: African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

'We made comments on a clinic we didn't visit': MPs perturbed by Portfolio Committee statements

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Apr 13, 2020

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Opposition MPs have expressed their disquiet over press statements issued by portfolio committee chairpersons on their behalf and without consultation.

MPs for the DA and EFF took to Twitter to express their outrage at the issuing of press statements by chairpersons on Sunday. 

DA MP Siviwe Gwarube fired the first salvo, saying she had vowed to not sweat the small stuff in 2020 and that she has a triaging system for stuff to sweat.

However, Gwarube said she was irritated by chairpersons who build "brands".

"To issue a statement on behalf of the committee requires agreement/instruction by the PC - not just your random views," she tweeted on Sunday. 

Gwarube, who serves on the health portfolio committee, described the practice by committee chairpersons as a pervasive culture in Parliament. 

"And frankly a complete over-reach of the powers of the chairperson of the portfolio committee.  PCs are not your study group, she stated.

In her response, EFF MP Naledi Chirwa, who also serves on the health portfolio, said it irked her so much.

Gwarube then asked if Chirwa had seen "the latest statements we have 'issued as the committee'. 

"In what world is it okay to do something on behalf of a group of colleagues who have never had sight of said thing?.

"The other day we issued comments and observations about a clinic we did not visit in rural KZN. How?" She asked.

Chirwa noted that chairpersons do not even bother to share those statements.

"I find them in the streets and I'm like 'what? Who? When?'".

Gwarube's colleague Mathew Cuthbert, who serves on the trade and industry portfolio committee, said: "They think we are there to rubber stamp their nonsense."

Cuthbert also said that there was a sincere effort to be magnanimous on everyone's part "but cant help but get frustrated at the sheer gall of people".

Gwarube said: "I'm really trying to choose peace during these difficult times. Honestly."

The disquiet was expressed after a statement was issued by the parliamentary communications unit  after midday on Saturday on behalf of the health committee chairperson Sibongiseni Dhlomo following the Friday night virtual meeting with the Health Department on matters related to Covid-19.

In attendance were Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize, Health MECs, ministerial advisory team chair Professor Salim Abdool-Karim, National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the South African Health Regulatory Authority.

"The portfolio committee on Health expressed its satisfaction after it heard of the progress that the Department of Health and the Ministerial Task Team are making in curbing and fighting the spread of Covid-19 in the country," read the statement.

In another statement on Sunday, Dhlomo urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to ignore calls from the Liquor Forum in Gauteng to sell liquor during the lockdown.

Dhlomo said people who consume alcohol predispose themselves to become drunk.

“A person who is under the influence of alcohol has a poor sense of judgement for the environment, space and time. This lockdown period does not need people who have poor sense of judgement,” said Dhlomo.

He also said the committee commended Ramaphosa’s call which included banning the sale of alcohol during the lockdown period.

“The President should not give those who want to sell alcohol space to do so as that might predispose them to being exposed to the pandemic unaware.

“The lockdown is a safe way that the President has called for where the sale of alcohol is not allowed. We urge the President not to heed the call of selling alcohol during the national state of disaster,” Dhlomo said.

He added that the lockdown was for the good of the country, for the control of the coronavirus, and the good for the control of any social ill.

Political Bureau

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