The attitude of indifference displayed by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, towards the FF Plus's parliamentary questions regarding certain serious matters is shocking and amounts to a failure to perform her lawful duties towards Parliament and the people of South Africa.
Some of the party's questions have been left unanswered since last year and the Minister simply does not pay any attention to the FF Plus's attempts to obtain answers by means of follow-up questions.
In terms of rule 145(5)(a), ministers are supposed to respond to written questions within ten days. If a minister is unable to respond in time due to some or other reason, he or she should approach the Speaker and request an extension of a maximum of ten more days.
In terms of rule 146(1), a Member of Parliament whose question is still unanswered after ten days or the period of extension of an additional ten days, may request that the said question be converted to an oral question to be posed in Parliament.
The problem with that, however, is that parties are not frequently granted the opportunity to pose oral questions. The rules for oral questions, furthermore, also prohibit oral questions that have sub-questions or oral questions that require a lot of statistics.
In addition, rule 146(3) stipulates that if there are any questions that have not been replied to in the prescribed time period, it must be recorded on the internal list of questions and then the Speaker must present a report with the details of all the unanswered questions to the Deputy President for further steps to be taken.
In the FF Plus's experience, however, ministers often do not respond to questions without incurring any consequences, as in this case. Two years ago, the Rules Committee proposed that a sub-committee must be established from its own ranks and that this sub-committee must cooperate with the Speaker to liaise with ministers so as to speed up the process of replying to questions.
The National Assembly approved the proposal, but the Rules Committee never officially appointed the sub-committee and the matter also did not appear on the Committee's agenda again.
Concerning the questions of the case in point, Mr Wouter Wessels asked a question regarding the deductions that municipalities should do on behalf of their employees for third parties, like SARS and the pension fund, on the 13th of November 2018 already.
These deductions are either not made at all or the money is embezzled after the deductions were made and, thus, it is never paid to the relevant third party. The allegation is that there are possibly syndicates working behind the scenes to embezzle the money. The situation is so serious that in some cases, employees cannot go on pension because their deductions were never transferred to the applicable third party.
No answers have been provided to the questions in this regard and the Minister merely keeps saying that an answer will follow. These questions touch on very serious allegations that surely deserve the Minister's urgent attention. However, it seems that she is completely indifferent.
In addition, Dr Pieter Groenewald, leader of the FF Plus, asked a question about the quantity of firearms and ammunition that has either been stolen or lost at the various Metro Police units in the country twice already without receiving a reply. The first question in this regard was asked on the 23rd of August 2019.
And then Mr Michal Groenewald asked, among other things, about councillors who fail to pay for services. The Minister also responded to that question with the same meaningless answer.
Clearly the Minister knows that after the 13th of December 2019, all unanswered questions will be communicated to the Speaker by means of a report and, thus, she merely responds by saying that the information requested is not readily available and that it will be provided when it becomes available.
Technically, that response is considered a reply and then these questions are recorded as finalised by Parliament and they are not mentioned in the Speaker's report.
As is evident, these questions touch on very serious matters. In this case, the Minister's actions show that she is not accountable and, therefore, she is incompetent to fill her position as minister.