Is Parliament suspended? Political parties in the dark after coronavirus gatherings ban

Opposition parties are calling for an urgent meeting with Parliament’s leaders on what the declared National State of Disaster means for the work of the Legislature.

Among the interventions announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday is the barring of gatherings of more than 100 people.

This would have an effect on the sitting of provincial and national legislatures around the country. 

The National Assembly has 400 members, not counting table staff and security. The National Council of Provinces has 90 members, as well as dozens of staff and officials who are located in the chamber.

Under the national disaster regulations, these two houses would not be able to meet and deliberate. 


Leader of the opposition in Parliament, Democratic Alliance interim leader John Steenhuisen, said he welcomed the President’s announcement and called for co-operation among parties.

“There are going to be far-reaching implications for the country, for business and the economy. But now is not the time for politics. Now is the time for South Africans to unite and work together with government to do our best to beat this virus,” Steenhuisen said. 

The opposition leader said Parliament would have to take the lead in setting an example to the rest of the country by limiting large gatherings. 

“I don’t think Parliament is going to be able to sit for plenary given the gravity of this situation. Certainly, the public gallery won’t be opened. Of course, parliamentary committees could still sit if they are below the 100-person limit. But even then, I think Parliament should be limiting human contact and [not] bringing people into significant contact with each other,” he said.

Inkatha Freedom Party chief whip Narend Singh said an urgent meeting with political party whips would need to be called to outline what happens to the work of the Assembly.

“This is a necessary intervention. It’s becoming a crisis … But chief whips will now have to communicate. There is only a week to go [before recess], but I think it is best we cancel sittings for the rest of the term and take it from there,” Singh said. 

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said the interventions announced by Ramaphosa are necessary and that Parliament would have to follow suit. 

“This is no longer a baby of China. We have seen how Italy has come up with even more drastic measures. So I hope the government and the people of South Africa inculcate a culture of ownership. We have no choice: safety first,” said Holomisa. 

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said speaker Thandi Modise and National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo are examining the president’s announcement.

“Both houses of Parliament will definitely look into the measures announced by the president and its implications [for] the Legislature’s business, and make an announcement soon,” he said.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Lester Kiewit
Lester Kiewit
Lester Kiewit is a Reporter, Journalist, and Broadcaster.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

How smuggled gold destined for Dubai or Singapore has links...

Three Malagasy citizens were apprehended at OR Tambo International airport, but now the trail is found to connect to France and Mali

How lottery execs received dubious payments through a private company

The National Lottery Commission is being investigated by the SIU for alleged corruption and maladministration, including suspicious payments made to senior NLC employees between 2016 and 2017

More top stories

2020-21 NBA SEASON – AFRICAN BLOGTABLE

Joel Embiid gets the nod, and though Curry has performed well lately, there are doubts that the Warriors will prevail

Beyond the digital cold war: Technology and the future of...

Several African governments have published plans to establish smart cities, including Cairo, Johannesburg, Kigali and Nairobi. They require the most advanced technologies available

Jonas Gwangwa embodied South Africa’s struggle for a national culture

Gwangwa’s love for the struggle was genuine and deep, never cosmetic – and he couldn’t have written an unattractive tune if he tried

Funding a vaccine will tax our limits

VAT should not be hiked, but a once-off levy on mineral resources or a solidarity tax seems likely
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…