ANC eyes improved attendance at Parliament

Dealing with poor attendance by African National Congress (ANC) members at parliamentary and caucus meetings would be one of the year’s priorities, the party’s chief whip said on Friday.

Nathi Mthethwa said: ”Inculcating a culture of discipline among some of the organisation’s public representatives in this institution will form part of the priorities of caucus this year.”

He was briefing journalists after the ANC’s two-day national caucus lekgotla (meeting) in Parliament, during which his office presented its report.

He would not specify how serious the problem was except to say that ”towards the end of last year we had an improvement”.

”We need to ensure that we place Parliament centrally in the affairs of the nation, and for Parliament to get the necessary respect, we need to be strict as ANC cadres.”

In his speech on Friday morning, ANC president Jacob Zuma spoke of the state of the organisation and the work that lay ahead for the next five years.

Mthethwa said Zuma never raised the Scorpions’ integration into the South African Police Service in his talk.

”It’s a matter that has been with the organisation for a very long time.”

Preparations for the 2009 national elections, organisational building and political management were subjects of talks by ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and ANC deputy secretary general Thandi Modise, said Mthethwa.

Deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka gave a comprehensive overview of the government’s programme for 2008.

Asked about the process of disciplining MPs involved in the Travelgate travel-voucher fraud saga, Mthethwa said some cases had gone to disciplinary committees and others to courts of law.

Deputy chief whip Andries Nel said that the cases of ANC MPs had been referred to the party’s national leadership.

When Nel was asked if the process was likely to be concluded by the present Parliament, Mthethwa said Nel was not a fortune teller.

”You are asking the deputy chief whip to be a sangoma? I don’t think we’d want to speculate.”

Following Zuma’s talk on Friday morning, delegates split up into four committees to discuss peace and security, economic transformation, social transformation and governance and monitoring.

These were closed to the media.

After being escorted into the chamber shortly after 9am on Friday, Zuma, wearing a grey suit but no tie, took his place on the right-hand side of the speaker’s chair and clapped in accompaniment to chants of ”ANC, ANC.”

When MPs began singing his trademark Umshini Wami song, Zuma did not respond by dancing and merely continued clapping, smiling at MPs, giving a thumbs up sign to one.

When approached for comment outside Parliament’s Old Assembly Chamber on Friday morning, Zuma merely laughed.

Later his bodyguards crowded around him, shooing reporters away as they led him into an awaiting Mercedes with bullet-proof, tinted windows. — Sapa

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