MPs consider steps against no-show ministers

Members of Parliament are angry with Cabinet ministers who fail to appear in the House for question time.

South African Parliament. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN - Members of Parliament (MPs) are so furious with Cabinet ministers who fail to appear in the House for question-time, that they are considering imposing sanctions on them.

MPs are also angry about ministers who fail to answer written questions on time, or who give inadequate answers during sessions in the National Assembly.

The matter's expected to come up this afternoon when Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa answers MPs' questions in the House.

One of them is from the Democratic Alliance (DA), asking whether he'll crack the whip on errant ministers.

Cabinet ministers' empty seats in the House yesterday raised opposition ire.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen says: "This is not a Parliament holding its ministers accountable. Look at these benches today. If ministers don't want to come here and account, we might as well pack up and go home. They're making a mockery of this Parliament."

The African National Congress is also fed up.

Chief whip Jackson Mthembu says absentee ministers are an embarrassment and the party's caucus will take up the matter.

"It is not in the interests of the governing party not to have ministers present to answer questions.

"When they are scheduled to be in Parliament to answer questions, they must prioritise it. We also feel embarrassed as a party, when people are expected to do their parliamentary duties and they are not in attendance."

MPs want ministers to face consequences for snubbing Parliament.

They have asked National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete for a meeting with Ramaphosa to discuss the matter.

The deputy president - who as leader of government business is responsible for ensuring members of the executive fulfil their parliamentary duties - will face questions about the issue in the House this afternoon.