/ 10 September 2007

DA in ‘lively’ meeting after suspension of MP

The Democratic Alliance (DA) had a ”lively” exchange of views with National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete on Monday, in a meeting held to discuss, among other things, her suspension of DA MP Mike Waters.

The meeting was also aimed at discussing Mbete’s invoking of parliamentary rule 63 last week to rule out of order a parliamentary question, asked by Waters, about Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang’s theft conviction, DA chief whip Ian Davidson said in a statement.

Waters’s refusal to accept Mbete’s ruling on the matter led to him being suspended from the House for five days.

”In a lively exchange of views, the speaker today [Monday] indicated that she was not prepared to engage in a debate on her use of rule 63.

”I sought clarity in the National Assembly on the day the speaker specified that she would not allow the question, and today [Monday] again attempted to get answers on the matter of the question being ‘offensive and of unbecoming language’.

”What part of the DA’s question rendered it ‘offensive and of unbecoming language’ is still unclear.”

Davidson said Mbete had been unaware of the statement by Smuts Ngonyama, African National Congress head of the Presidency, that ”President Thabo Mbeki knew about it, because the ANC knew about it”, thereby indicating the ANC and government had known all along of the health minister’s previous theft conviction.

”The decision to suspend Mr Waters must be seen in the context of the fact that, although several MPs have admitted to stealing what amounts to millions of rands in relation to the Travelgate scandal, not one of these MPs has been suspended for even one minute.

”The speaker indicated that she is entitled, in terms of the parliamentary rules, to impose a punishment she sees fit on a member of Parliament.

”In an answer to my question on why harsher sentences were not imposed on the Travelgate MPs, the speaker admitted that the parliamentary rules do not allow for this. I will be taking this matter further in the chief whips’ forum and in the rules committee.”

Davidson said the DA would re-submit the second part of the parliamentary question asked last week.

This seeks to establish whether Tshabalala-Msimang disclosed information on her theft conviction to President Thabo Mbeki when she was informed of his decision to appoint her to the health portfolio. — Sapa