/ 5 December 2013

Assembly did follow disciplinary procedures

ANC chief whip Stone Sizani.
ANC chief whip Stone Sizani.

The article titled "Lax assembly ­discipline irks chief whip Stone Sizani" (November 29) cast aspersions on Parliament and is simply incorrect. Regrettably, statements were left as fact because Parliament was not approached to verify them.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson lodged a complaint with the speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, about two members of the assembly, one from the ANC and one from the Democratic Alliance. The two had allegedly made derogatory remarks about her on October 9 at a meeting of the portfolio committee on agriculture, forestry and ­fisheries, which she attended.

The minister, in her complaint dated October 14, asked the speaker to intervene. This the speaker did. He referred the minister's complaint to the National Assembly's powers and privileges committee, as required by the rules. In his referral of October 22, the speaker asked the committee to assess the complaint and to report to the House on its findings and recommendations.

The committee was created in terms of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act of 2004 and a number of National Assembly rules regulate its operations.

It may consider any matter referred to it by the speaker relating to contempt of Parliament or misconduct by a member of the assembly.

The National Assembly may take disciplinary action against a member after the committee has investigated the alleged misconduct and reported its findings and recommendations to the House.

Also on October 22, the speaker wrote letters to the chief whip of the majority party, Stone Sizani, and the parliamentary leader of the opposition, Lindiwe Mazibuko, stating the seriousness of the complaint and informing them of its referral to the powers and privileges committee. Their attention was drawn to the procedure to be followed in assessing the complaint, and they were asked to deal with the allegations against their members in terms of their particular party's internal processes regulating members' conduct.

The statement in the Mail & Guardian, boldly declaring that "the institution under whose auspices the portfolio committee was conducting its business has done nothing up to now", is incorrect and unfortunate.

A simple call to verify this information by the reporter, who happens to be based in Parliament, could have clarified this point immediately.

It is not the first time that this kind of conduct has occurred, in which the office of the speaker is not contacted for comment on matters that relate directly to the National Assembly.

Luzuko Jacobs is the spokesperson for Parliament.