The Secretary to the National Assembly briefed Members on Motion without Notice, and highlighted that new Rule 123 was devised to manage the challenges experienced with motions without notice in the House. The rule stated that before a motion can be moved, five political parties including the ANC, DA and EFF need to indicate that there are no objections to the motion without notice. However, the new rule was causing divisions to the motions without notice which was counter-productive and time consuming.
Members agreed to refer the rule back to the Subcommittee on Review of the National Assembly Rules for refinement by the end of the week. There would be no motions without notice this week in the House.
On Questions to the Executive, Rule 136 seeks to establish a system for monitoring and reporting regularly to the House on questions that have been left unanswered on the Question Paper by the Executive. He suggested that the Subcommittee on Review of the Rules considers the monitoring system in Rule 136 and report to the Rules Committee after the upcoming recess.
Members expressed discontent about Ministers not taking the written and oral questions seriously and leaving questions unanswered or not replying with substance. The Committee agreed that the Leader of Government Business ought to do better in enforcing the importance of all Ministers answering questions.
Proposals for the time allocation for Declarations of Vote were submitted to the Committee. After a complaint from the smaller parties, this was amended so that smaller political parties would be granted an extra minute for declarations. It would now be: ANC – 7; DA – 5; EFF – 4 and all other parties 3 minutes.
The Chairperson handed over to the Secretary to the National Assembly to brief the Committee on the motions without notice, declarations of vote and questions to the Executive.
Motions without Notice
Mr Masibulele Xaso, Secretary to the National Assembly, stated that in the last meeting the Committee had dealt with the sequence and the opportunities for motions without notice. The Committee agreed to follow the sequence but subsequent to that there was a view that the decision for opportunities had to be reviewed to create two opportunities for the EFF to read and move for a motion without notice.
The proposal was agreed to, and there were no objections from the Members.
The new Rule 123 was devised to manage some of the challenges experienced with motions without notice. The rule required that before a motion can be moved there should be five parties to indicate that there are no objections to the motion without notice being moved in the House. The new procedure takes care of the right of a Member to read out and move the motion in their individual capacity. However, there is an unintended consequence, which was ending up with divisions to the motions without notice. The challenge with this rule is the possible division to motions without notice in the House. So with 22 motions without notice, it is possible to have 22 divisions in the House, and this may be undesirable. Therefore, the formation of this rule was proposed but the proposal does not take care of division issue.
Mr J Steenhuisen (DA) asked when a motion has been read in the House by a Member, and another Member opposes that motion, then the motion is transformed to a motion without notice.
The Secretary replied that unanimous concurrence is subject to the sub-rule 123(g).
Mr Steenhuisen said if his party objects to the motion without reaching the threshold of five parties and that motion is still read in the House, even though that does not mean that motion is supported, Members are bound to support that motion. He said he has a right to object the motion if he fundamentally disagrees with the content, so it cannot be about the unanimous concurrence of the House which will transform it to a motion without notice.
The Secretary said before this rule that would then automatically transform it to a notice. However what this rule does if you have that strong objection to the motion, you then follow it through, the chair puts the question and the Member can call for a division which is unfortunate.
Mr Steenhuisen said this then removes the whole point of motions without notice, and transforms it to a different harboured version of the motion.
Mr F Shivambu (EFF) said in the Chief Whips Forum it was raised that a motion must be read in the House if there are five political parties that do not object to it, it must be written like that. There should not be any divisions in the House because of the objection, instead the objection can be noted. If there are 22 motions without notice, it can divide the House 22 times and it would take the whole day to deal with motions. Therefore, objections should just be noted and then they move on.
Mr J Mthembu (ANC) stated that what the proposed rule outlines is not desirable, for a consensus motion in the House. Perhaps, we need to revisit the drawing board, the rule does not assist us in reaching that consensus, and we are still far from coming up with a mechanism that speaks to unity in the House. This motion as it stands now puts the House apart, and you move further from the essence of motion without notice. Therefore, this will not assist the House. He suggested that this motion be suspended until a more desirable and favourable conclusion can be reached.
Mr N Nkwankwa (UDM) stated that the rule, even though it intended to overcome some of the challenges, does not propose a favourable solution. Therefore, it needs to be revised without losing the underlying principles that are intended. Also it does not completely erase some of the challenges that the House has experienced in the past. He agreed with Mr Mthembu that the proposal needs to be taken back to the drawing board.
Mr M Waters (DA) said that he does not believe that the intention of the rule was not to divide the House. He also agreed with Mr Mthembu to take the rule back to the drawing back for rewording and revision.
Mr Kasper Hahndiek, Consultant, stated that the first challenge to be solved was the agreement of five parties including the ANC, DA and EFF, that the motion could be read out in the House. However, the rules did not speak about the House division on motions without notice even though it is the constitutional right of Members to ask for a division. He noted that Rule 99 may assist the Speaker or presiding officer in postponing the decision on a motion without notice to a later stage. Lastly, he said that a division would not be necessary if a motion without notice had met the rule requirements for it to be read in the House.
Mr M Mdakane (ANC) said that Mr Hahndiek raised a very important point and communicated effectively what the intention of the proposed rule is. The intention here was that the time spent on a motion without notice should not take the whole day. The wording could be improved without moving away from the intention of the rule or the principle. We can find the appropriate wording without shunning the rule.
Mr M Booi (ANC) said whilst parties are engaging it is important to maintain the authority of the Speaker in the House, and to not take away the right of the Members in the House does not disappear in the process of revising the rule.
Mr Steenhuisen noted the hybrid system where the requirements for reading the motion without notice were retained but if a party objected, the motion fell away. He added that if such a system was followed, the rights of all Members would be covered provided that they meet the criteria for the motion without notice
The Chairperson noted that this will be taken forward for final consideration. She submitted that Members should stop using the motion without notice for controversial matters but rather on the issues that matter or rather in the interest of the public.
All Members agreed that the matter should be referred back to the Subcommittee on Review of the National Assembly Rules to refine the wording.
Mr Mthembu suggested that this could be resolved by the end of this week.
All Members agreed to the suggestion. It was noted that there will be no motions without notice this week in the House.
Mr Shivambu said the Committee has agreed on the direction of the proposals, he asked if the sequence applies to Member’s statements as well.
Mr Xaso replied that there has not been an express decision on a possible sequence for Members’ statements.
Mr Mthembu said the prior discussion made the point that the sequencing around the motion without notice should mirror the arrangement of statements.
Mr Xaso said currently there are 15 statements, and the EFF has one opportunity, but with the new sequence the EFF will have two opportunities, and this will amount to 16 Member statements altogether.
Mr Shivambu commented that the EFF cannot have the same number of Member statements as compared to other small political parties with only one Member in the House.
Questions to the Executive
Mr Xaso stated that Rule 136 required the Speaker, in consultation with the Rules Committee, to establish a system for monitoring and reporting regularly to the House on questions that have been left unanswered on the Question Paper. He suggested that the Subcommittee on Review of the National Assembly Rules consider the monitoring system in Rule 136 and report to the Rules Committee after the upcoming recess.
Mr Steenhuisen said the problem is in the question paper, from having a single set of questions on any day, now there are four categories of questions in the order paper. So whatever the Subcommittee decides is a sitting on the order papers. Category four of the questions is a drastic transgression that needs to be addressed, because Ministers cannot get away with not answering questions in the House when they are required to.
Mr Mthembu noted that challenges continue being experienced with questions submitted to the Executive, but a system has to be put in place before this matter can be resolved. In addition, the issues mentioned by Mr Steenhuisen should also be referred to the Subcommittee for consideration and for it to come up with a decisive solution.
Mr Waters stated that Ministers have been getting away with not answering questions, and the relevant rules in this regard need to stringent. There are no consequences for Ministers who do not comply with the rules, so the Committee needs to take a stance now and apply itself in coming up with a mechanism that will address this problem.
Dr G Koornhof (ANC), Parliamentary Counsellor to the President, highlighted that the Deputy President had given a commitment in the House that Members of the Executive would improve their performance on questions, and most importantly to ensure that the rules of the House would be refined.
Mr Nkwankwa noted that there is a lack of quality in the responses from the Ministers in the House, this is something that will have to looked into as well.
Mr Steenhuisen emphasized that Ministers need to stop ignoring Parliament and undermining its rules and procedures. While the Deputy President could make promises of improved performance, there is no accountability from Ministers. It is quite frankly a disgrace, because Ministers are acting with complete impunity. He is not happy about suspending rules of Parliament in holding steadfast to the idea that things will change. Members of the Executive need to start complying with the rules.
Mr Mthembu said that actually the majority of the Executive do comply to answering oral and written questions, so the Executive should not be painted with the same brush. He acknowledged that there are those who do not comply and agreed with Mr Steenhuisen on tightening the mechanisms to ensure that such behaviour is completely eliminated.
The Chairperson highlighted that the situation needs to be corrected, and the Office of the Leader of Government Business needs to ensure that it assists the Committee in ensuring that they are familiar with the rules, especially in those areas that are key to their responsibilities.
Declarations of vote
Mr Xaso said that it is proposed that the time allocation for declarations of vote be amended as follows:
ANC – 6; DA – 4; EFF – 3; and all other parties two minutes each.
A further option that may be considered is as follows:
ANC – 7; DA – 5; EFF – 3; and all other parties two minutes each.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) stated that the proposal to give the other parties only two minutes to make declarations was not acceptable and she suggested that the Committee consider going back to the old system where smaller parties had three minutes for declarations. She added that smaller parties are already at a disadvantage in terms of opportunities to express themselves.
Mr Mthembu said that providing fair opportunities to the smaller parties has been discussed in the Chief Whips’ Forum, however, it is important to take note of the proportionality of the parties embedded in the system. He agreed to providing smaller parties with three minutes each based on the condition that the time allocation to bigger parties should also be adjusted accordingly.
The Chairperson proposed the following time allocation for making declarations of vote:
ANC – 7; DA – 5; EFF – 4 and all other parties 3 minutes.
All Members agreed to this and it was adopted.
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