Update: Zille, MECs slammed after declining to attend Parly meeting

The meeting was related to complaints from traditional leaders who want to be consulted on provincial bills.

FILE: Western Cape Premier Helen Zille. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and MEC Anton Bredell have been called "irresponsible" for declining to attend a parliamentary committee meeting.

The chairperson of the Select Committee on Petitions and Executive Undertakings, Setlamorago Thobejane, has taken a dim view of their decision not to attend a meeting to deal with a complaint from traditional leaders, who say they want to be consulted on provincial bills.

Zille's spokesperson Michael Mpofu says Bredell had written to the Committee explaining their view on the matter.

The provincial government's position is that until national legislation establishes a House of Traditional Leaders in the Western Cape, a meeting on the petition could not accomplish anything.

Mpofu added that Zille and Bredell were also attending a provincial Cabinet meeting on the day.

Thobejane says even though the premier declined to attend the meeting, "they were supposed to be there."

The traditional leaders approached Parliament after their case was dismissed by both the Western Cape High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) on the basis that there is currently no Provincial House of Traditional Leaders in the Western Cape.

Thobejane says he has the power to subpoena, but will not go that route.

"For them to come and make a presentation here, help us to arrive at a decision that will be in the best interest of South Africa. I don't think they would have been losing anything."

Thobejane says the committee will rely on the province's written response to the petition when it compiles a report on the matter.

"We want people to cooperate with Parliament in order to build the strong democracy that we are striving for, but I'm not sure whether this behaviour is in line with that, it might be the opposite of what we are seeing."

The Western Cape is the only province where there are no formally recognised traditional leaders at any level.

While some people regard themselves as such, they do not meet the legal criteria for official recognition.