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Angry opposition MPs call for absent ministers to be charged

Matters came to a head in the National Assembly on Thursday when not a single minister was present in the House to respond to members’ statements.

A joint sitting of Parliament in the National Assembly. Picture: GCIS

CAPE TOWN – Opposition parties are calling for truant Cabinet ministers to be charged with contempt of Parliament.

Matters came to a head in the National Assembly on Thursday when not a single minister was present in the House to respond to members’ statements.

This followed ructions on Wednesday when ministers failed to turn up to answer questions, including Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, who sent an unsigned sick note.

Eyewitness News reported on Thursday that Speaker Baleka Mbete has raised the matter sharply with new leader of Government Business, deputy president David Mabuza, but ministers’ failure to do their parliamentary duty is a long-standing problem, and MPs are now on the warpath.

Out of more than 70 members of the executive, only one deputy minister was in the House.

Furious MPs gave vent to their anger and frustration:

Democratic Alliance Chief Whip John Steenhuisen: "We do need to look at charging ministers for contempt in terms of the Powers and Privileges Act and it might then force them to come here. Otherwise this new dawn is going to turn into a false dawn."

The Economic Freedom Fighters’ Veronica Mente: "This is unethical conduct, we cannot have ministers that are just being AWOL."

The Inkatha Freedom Party’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa: "In the absence of consequences, ministers will continue treating this House with disdain, as if it is an executive Parliament when it’s actually not."

Some parties are calling for absentee ministers to be docked a month’s pay.

It’s now up to Mabuza to crack the whip.

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