As MPLâ€™s, it is our patriotic duty to ensure that we utilise our powers to improve the lives of the people of this Province. It is therefore incumbent upon us to do everything in our power to hold those to account that must deliver.
Edward Abbey once said and I quote â€œThe patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his Government.â€ True patriotism means putting your Province first before oneâ€™s political party. This is a tough challenge for many people but a necessary hurdle that needs to be overcome if we are to instill a culture of accountability in this Province.
Earlier on this year when President Obama spoke in Ghana in July he said â€œAfrica doesnâ€™t need strong men, it needs strong institutions.â€ This institution consists, not only of MPLâ€™s, but also officials.
A strong institution is one that can efficiently and effectively carry out its mandate by making an impact on Society at large.
I wish to illustrate this by way of example â€“ In August last year, the Honourable Athol Trollip asked the MEC for Agriculture about the 5 farms that were purchased by the O R Tambo Municipality in Kwa-Zulu Natal and where they allegedly paid significantly more than the market price.
The question was answered in such a way by the then MEC for Agriculture : â€œ The office of the MEC responsible for Agriculture is not in a position to furnish your office with a response to question number 104 as it was not informed by the O R Tambo District Municipality of the intended purchase of the farms and also when the farms were acquired.â€ The answer to the question in the light of a poor Municipality â€“ the poorest Municipality in this country â€“ spending huge sums buying farms outside of the Province should have been the subject of an urgent investigation by the Department. What is also a tragedy is that none of the researchers in this Legislature saw fit to take this matter further and investigate it. Why is it, in the light of damning allegations being put before this Legislature, that the Department of Agriculture did not investigation this matter? Nor any portfolio committee and nor, for that matter did researchers in this Legislature.
In the policy speech of the Honourable Speaker earlier on this year â€“ I quote â€œ In executing our mandate as the Legislature, we will ensure that vigorous oversight over members of the executive council, government departments and public entities is implemented.â€
I fully realise that this incident occurred before the Honourable Speakerâ€™s term of office but the kind of oversight that the honourable Speaker is talking about, should have been applied to this issue in question. Sadly it was not. If there was an intervention then, millions of rands could have been saved by the O R Tambo Municipality that have now ploughed R55 million into five farms that are allegedly in a derelict state.
It is only when this Legislature is prepared to do its patriotic duty and put the people first before the party, that we will improve the quality of life of the people in this Province.
I repeat my quote: â€œA patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his Government.â€
Earlier on this year I raised the issue of the HROPT process and put a question to Health at the beginning of September. I am yet to receive a reply. Yet I have subsequently found out that Health paid out R388 million that was not budgeted for. We in the opposition benches donâ€™t simply raise questions for the sake of it but because we dearly love this Province and want to see the quality of life of everyone improved.
The answers to questions are again becoming problematic where MECâ€™s ignore important questions. This is a violation of our rules and undermines democratic accountability in this institution. Democracy is not defined by the ruling partyâ€™s code of behaviour but rather by internationally accepted norms. This is an issue that should also receive some attention from the ethics committee because this institution is being undermined by this behaviour.
In regard to oversight, petitions play an important part in enhancing public participation in the work of this Legislature. The committee noted that there is a lack of sense of urgency in handling petitions and we have asked for a full report on what is happening in that regard.
Petitions often arrive at this Legislature when petitioners have tried every other means to resolve their problem and failed to do so.
Another issue which is covered in the annual report and I quote â€œThe Legislature precincts are not well maintained and the level of monitoring of cleanliness of public facilities used, is very low â€“ hence dirty facilities.â€
On a number of ocassions we have raised the state of toilets in meetings. To have to raise the state of toilets in this house must make members realise the low point at which we have arrived. There is frequently no soap in the toilets, particularly those around the committee rooms. This is extremely unhygienic. When I visited the Australian Parliament two years ago in Canberra, there was a sign up in the toilet saying â€œIf you find this toilet in an unsatisfactory condition, please contact ….â€ and they gave an officialâ€™s name. We need to do the same in this Legislature.
Another issue that is raised in the report is the position of the paying of political support staff one monthâ€™s salary during the transition period during the old and new parliament. A problem exists that the staffâ€™s contracts come to an end when the term of MPLâ€™s ends. This is not in itself problematic but it takes several weeks for the rules committee to be convened and make a decision as to the quota of staff per political party. This means that the staff of political parties are completely in the dark as to their future position. One needs to look for a way around this so people are not kept on tenterhooks for a month.
The issue of MPLâ€™s homes and the repairs that public works needs to do to them, needs to be speedily handled. The Honourable Van Vuuren and Honourable Haddon couldnâ€™t move into their home because it was vandalised.
Another issue that I would like to bring up is the whole issue of procurement. Particularly so when it comes to the procurement of new computers for this Legislature. Some of our staff are using outdated and outmoded equipment that frequently freezes or just switches off and needs to be re-booted. This has a severe impact on the morale in the office as well as the productivity of MPLâ€™s and needs to be addressed urgently.
This matter has been dragging on since before the election.