/ 26 August 2015

Ministers unprepared for parliamentary Q&A sessions

Ministers Unprepared For Parliamentary Q&a Sessions

Traditional circumcision, a lack of drinking water in certain rural areas and the possibility of voluntary or compulsory youth enrolment in the South African National Defence Force were hot topics in Parliament during a question and answer session on Wednesday.

MPs posed questions to various ministers and deputy ministers in the House, but few were happy with the answers, which they felt were mediocre and not of any quality.

For the second week running, opposition MPs were left dissatisfied when ministers could not give yes or no answers, timelines or numbers during the question and answer session, accusing the executive of not being prepared enough when facing parliamentary questions.

Economic Freedom Fighters chief whip Floyd Shivambu said the answers given on Wednesday were mediocre, while the Democratic Alliance felt some of their questions were not being answered at all.

DA MP Phumzile van Damme asked if there were plans to initiate a youth service programme that would entail either voluntary or compulsory enrolment in the South African National Defence Force. Minister of Women in the Presidency Susan Shabangu replied that a task team was looking into the matter.

“The deputy minister in the presidency has appointed a task team to review, amend and finalise the co-ordination and expansion of the framework for a national youth service programme. The task team comprises representatives of government, civil society.

“The task team is currently looking at the existing national youth service programme framework as a basis for a better co-ordination and expansion, including looking at what role the South African National Defence force could play in an expanded national youth service programme. The task team expects to conclude its work in the next three months,” she said.

Pushed to give a yes or no answer, the minister said that was not how she was taught in school and was elaborating to educate the MPs.

ANC chief whip Stone Sizani defended Shabangu and said she had given a simple answer to the simple question, while DA MP Mike Waters said it was obvious the minister did not know the answer.

The theme of dissatisfied MPs continued throughout the two-hour session.

MPs called for a decisive action on the numbers of initiates dying each year from traditional circumcisions.

Deputy Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Andries Nel told MPs the department was ready for the upcoming summer initiation season, taking them through some of the measures being taken to deal with illegal schools.

Inkatha Freedom Party MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said young lives could not continue being lost every year to the traditional practice.

“Any culture we perform should be about life. It should not be a gateway to death. I think maybe the time has come to bite the bullet for us to start taking drastic steps to ensure we save lives.

“Is the department considering medical circumcisions in hospitals and clinics, then transferring them [initiates] to the mountains and initiation schools to finish the other processes?” he asked.

Nel said his suggestion was one of many the department was considering.

Some of the other questions the ministers faced centred on the effectiveness of Thusong centres, which provide information and services to communities, and whether there were any strategies in place to make sure the National Development Plan was endorsed by government as well as business, labour and civil society.