/ 18 March 2024

Committee attendance by MPs worsens, says Parliamentary Monitoring Group

Energy Minister Dipuo Peters says South Africa is at a critical point where any means to increase energy supply should be explored.
ANC MP Dipuo Peters did not attend a single meeting before her one month suspension. File photo

Attendance by members of parliament of the National Assembly’s portfolio committees was worse during the first session of 2024 than it was during the previous year.

According to the analysis of committee meeting attendance trends published by the Parliamentary Monitoring Group, of 32 committees in the assembly, 18 showed worse attendance than in 2023, 12 improved their attendance levels and two remained the same.

While much attention is paid to the plenary sessions of parliament, it is in the committees that the work of drafting legislation and holding members of the executive and the departments and entities under their control to account takes place.

The trade and industry and competition (89%), forestry, fisheries and the environment (82%), women, youth and persons with disabilities (80%) and public service and administration (78%) committees all showed improvement in their attendance levels.

The busiest committee in the house was minerals and energy, which held 16 meetings, but it was far from the best attended, clocking 61% attendance at its sittings, down on the 72% attendance by MPs recorded at its 31 meetings last year.

Sports, arts and culture held 13 committee meetings this year, recording 73% attendance by MPs, followed by finance, which held 10 meetings attended by 69% of its honourable members.

Finance committee chairperson Joseph Maswanganyi (ANC) scored a 100% attendance rate for the first quarter of 2024, as did the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Alf Lees and Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) Mzwanele Manyi, who joined parliament during the sitting but attended all five committee meetings held during his tenure.

The least prolific committee was the rules of the national assembly committee, which held a single meeting this year and was — as with last year — the worst attended by MPs, with only 44% of its members recorded as participating.

But this was an improvement on 2023, when the committee’s three meetings were attended by, on average, only 37% of its members.

The international relations and cooperation committee held six meetings during 2024, but recorded 46% attendance, which was a 2% decrease on attendance at its 25 meetings held during 2023.

The standing committee on the auditor general has held two meetings this year, with its 54% attendance rate a decrease on last year, when 60% participation by MPs was recorded across its eight meetings.

Among MPs, the ANC’s Dipuo Peters, who is serving a one-month suspension for breaching the Code of Ethical Conduct while she was the transport minister, did not attend a single committee meeting before she was sanctioned.

The EFF’s Veronica Mente was recorded as attending two committee meetings and missing seven during the same period, while the party’s deputy president, Floyd Shivambu, attended none.

Among the most prolific MPs were the ANC’s Zet Luzipho, who chaired 16 meetings of the minerals and energy committee, followed by the DA’s Kevin MIleham (15), while ANC MP Matthews Wolmarans attended a total of 20 committee meetings during the same period.