MPs no-show as Parliament kicks off Women’s Day debate

IFP’s Liezl van der Merwe told the House that previous Women’s Day debates had also seen empty benches.

FILE: Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - A debate on Women's Day in Parliament today kicked off with a clash between the African National Congress (ANC) and opposition parties over the number of empty seats in the House.

Members of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces marked the historic 1956 march on the Union Buildings by thousands of women with a joint sitting.

But many Cabinet ministers and Members of Parliament (MPs) were absent.

The United Democratic Movement (UDM)'s Nqabayomzi Kwankwa noted that today's funeral of the late Rev Makhenkesi Stofile was a factor, but it wasn't the first joint sitting to be poorly attended.

"Actually, there are more members or people in the public gallery than there are here, this matter needs to receive attention."

ANC deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude told the House some MPs were also busy with legislation.

"So please let's not come here and grandstand."

Inkatha Freedom Party MP Liezl van der Merwe told the House that previous Women's Day debates had also seen empty benches.

"This is the third time that we've had these empty benches and I think it sends a very strong message about how our government feels about women."