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By Eric Naki

Political Editor


Parly to hold government accountable for lockdown decisions

Members of parliament on Thursday agreed that it was necessary to ensure members of the executive carefully consider all decisions they take regarding lockdown regulations, and how it will affect the populace.


Parliament has resolved to be tough in dealing with Cabinet decisions pertaining to the regulations governing the prevention of the spread of Covid-19. This was decided by the National Assembly Programming Committee which held a virtual teleconference meeting on Thursday, chaired by National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise and her deputy, Lechesa Tsenoli. Some MPs argued strongly about how some decisions made by the National Command Council failed to consider their impact on the health of the people during the current lockdown. This included a decision to gradually reopen schools despite the likely exposure of children to the virus, due to…

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Parliament has resolved to be tough in dealing with Cabinet decisions pertaining to the regulations governing the prevention of the spread of Covid-19.

This was decided by the National Assembly Programming Committee which held a virtual teleconference meeting on Thursday, chaired by National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise and her deputy, Lechesa Tsenoli.

Some MPs argued strongly about how some decisions made by the National Command Council failed to consider their impact on the health of the people during the current lockdown. This included a decision to gradually reopen schools despite the likely exposure of children to the virus, due to the possible difficulty in controlling children and overcrowding at schools.

They said that parliamentary portfolio committees must prioritise government cluster departments that dealt with Covid-19.

EFF MP Veronica Mente said it was important that parliament must concern itself with matters affecting the people’s health under the precarious conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the need to respect the accompanying lockdown regulations.

Mente said committees must prioritise only clusters dealing with Covid-19 because the country was operating under distressed conditions and therefore “things could not be normal”.

EFF MP Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi criticised the government decision to gradually start opening schools in terms of level 4 lockdown, which also allowed for the easing of regulations against some economic activities.

The government announced that some schools would open from May under certain conditions which will enable the prevention of infections by the virus.

Mkhaliphi strongly cautioned against sending school children to what she called a “battleground”.

“We are fighting a war against an enemy that we cannot see. This is a war, we cannot send our children to war,” Mkhaliphi said.

The meeting resolved to invite ministers to hold them accountable for their decisions pertaining to the pandemic, while other departments outside the realm of the virus response would only be invited when it became necessary.

Members had different views about whether committee meetings should continue only virtually (online), or both online and regular physical gatherings in parliament. Some said it was not possible to meet face to face without breaking the lockdown regulations, especially those regarding social distancing.

Both the DA’s Natasha Mazonne and IFP chief whip, Narend Singh, argued that physical meetings were unsuitable for the time being. Singh said virtual gatherings must remain, but monitored for their efficiency. He suggested that oral questions to the Executive Council should also be done virtually.

Finally, it was agreed that virtual sit-down and face-to-face meetings should happen simultaneously. The physical sittings should only occur on condition that those who attend should respect the lockdown regulations on gatherings and social distancing.

Modise said MPs who preferred not to attend the meetings in parliament should be allowed to do so without any repercussions.

“Members can meet but under strict regulations of Covid-19. We cannot make these regulations and do something else. But we must not force members who cannot attend because they feel that might compromise their health,” Modise said.

ericn@citizen.co.za

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